By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Staff Writer | Published April 16, 2015
ATLANTA—The new Pastoral Plan of the Archdiocese of Atlanta is the first of its kind since 1966.
A Lay Congress and Congress of Women Religious preceded the First Synod of the Archdiocese 49 years ago, which enacted a decree titled “The Church of Christ.”
In the Synod decree, Archbishop Paul J. Hallinan outlined a pastoral vision for the next decade.
“The proposed structure of archdiocese and parish is new and bold, but it is also reasonable and progressive,” wrote Archbishop Hallinan.
The Synod was conducted over three days in November and addressed the practice of Catholicism in the rural parts of north Georgia, self-renewal, ecumenism, and the end of racial segregation, calling for “wholehearted integration” of parishes based on Christian love.
It also discussed the role of the church in the community and outreach to the poor.
“We face Appalachian poverty in the north of the archdiocese and Vine Street slums in the center,” wrote the archbishop. “There is no ‘Catholic’ hunger or ‘Protestant’ unemployment or ‘Jewish’ discrimination. There are simply human persons deprived of what they need to live rightly.”
The decree recommended forming of parish councils, parish boards of education, and finance or budget committees, “new structures, which will give everyone—priests, religious and laity—an important voice in the life of the archdiocese.”
There are common themes between the 67-page decree and the newly unveiled Pastoral Plan, including relieving priests of administrative burdens when possible and an emphasis on charity and service in living out the faith.
Like the 2015 Pastoral Plan, the Synod document called for a period of ongoing “appraisal” of how changes were being implemented.
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory has stated that the Pastoral Plan is not the end of a process, but a beginning. His predecessor offered similar words about the Synod of 1966.
“It is our fervent hope that the same spirit which gave life to the Synod will now breathe a new life and vitality into every endeavor of the Church in northern Georgia,” wrote Archbishop Hallinan. “No structure, no institution, no program will have much value unless it serves as a means of deepening our love for God and neighbor, unless it helps us to pursue that holiness to which all of us have been called.”