April 17, 2024 at 11:39 a.m.

Three strategies that will help us fulfill our mission

We need to focus on regionalization, empowerment of more lay leadership and an increase in volunteers.
Tom Cronin is the Director of Evangelization & Strategic Planning in the Diocese of Albany.  Contact Tom with any questions about boosting evangelization efforts at your parish at Thomas.Cronin@rcda.org or by visiting www.rcda.org/evangelization. Follow me on Instagram: tom_rcda.
Tom Cronin is the Director of Evangelization & Strategic Planning in the Diocese of Albany. Contact Tom with any questions about boosting evangelization efforts at your parish at [email protected] or by visiting www.rcda.org/evangelization. Follow me on Instagram: tom_rcda.

By Thomas G. Cronin | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

When any organization fails to critically assess how it functionally operates, they risk not fulfilling their mission to the best of their ability and the Church is no different.

The way the Church has been operating is unsustainable. We are functioning in crisis mode and it is not healthy for any of the active participants. Continuing to ask the same people to do more and more is threatening the health, zeal and effectiveness of everyone involved — our priests, parish staff, lay leaders and volunteers. It is also a risk to those we serve, especially people on the margins who may not get the help they require because so many of our resources are being utilized on maintenance of buildings and not on mission or ministry. 

Clergy wellness is a top priority and is critical to the future of our Church. As we continue to ask more from our priests — they are being stretched to the point of negatively impacting their physical, mental and spiritual health. How can we expect them to serve us well, when they are being taxed like never before?

We currently have 54 active diocesan priests under the age of 70 years old and most of them are covering two, three or more parishes. This is having a drastic impact on our operations.  Priests that would previously provide the Sacrament of Reconciliation or visit with parishioners before or after Mass are now racing off to the next parish they serve.

Additionally, the dedication and sacrifice by our retired priests speaks volumes to these men and their love for God, our Church and its people. They are an unbelievable blessing and many are working harder than ever covering the abundance of churches and Masses across our vast Diocese.

Increased vocations are critical, but that is a longer-term solution and a topic for another day. For now, I would like to focus on three strategies that we need to prayerfully discern, fully analyze and implement: regionalization, empowerment of more lay leadership and increase in volunteers. A few words about each of these:

• Regionalization: Serving 126 parishes across 14 counties is a continued challenge to properly manage and effectively provide the most spiritually nourishing experience possible. Limited resources are being taxed like never before. We need to continue to pray and discern as to where we need our bricks and mortar to best fulfill our mission in bringing the Eucharist, the source and summit of our faith, to those residing across our Diocese. There is a dominant “culture of convenience” running rampant across America. We want to go to church at the absolute closest location to where we live even though we regularly drive much farther to get to our favorite restaurant or a shopping mall. Additionally, many of us want to worship at a very specific and preferred time each weekend. We are creatures of habit, but sometimes a little flexibility is required based on circumstances outside of our control. 

• Empowering lay leaders: More and more lay people are stepping up into parish leadership roles across our Diocese. Many parish administrative and operational responsibilities can be delegated to people with those gifts and talents which will provide our priests a bit of breathing room and allow them to better fulfill their vocational calling and have more time to be pastoral. Corporate and business experience can effectively transition over to the Church, but a pastoral and servant leadership lens is required for us to love those we serve. We need to be relational, not transactional. Staying focused on the people we are serving and loving them is most critical. 

• More volunteers: Parish finances continue to be tight and many parishes are operating at a net deficit budget. More volunteers are needed to support paid parish staff to best fulfill the needs of the people. There are vast opportunities for volunteers to participate in many roles in the Church both administratively and ministerially.

There is incredible hope and opportunity for our Church not to just survive, but to thrive. We know our mission — to go out and share our contagious joy and love of knowing Jesus with everyone we encounter. Go forth and do likewise.

Tom Cronin is the Director of Evangelization & Strategic Planning in the Diocese of Albany. Contact Tom with any questions about boosting evangelization ­efforts at your parish at [email protected] or by visiting www.rcda.org/evangelization. Follow me on Instagram: tom_rcda


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