Council Notes from Sioux City (January 2017)

The January meeting of the Sioux City Council began with an announcement of a triennial Convocation Oct. 16-19, 2017 and a triennial Retreat Oct. 15-18, 2018.

– The Committee for Continuing Formation of Priests is looking for active, engaged members and a new chair.

– In reference to Pastoral Planning, Deans are requested to recruit possible facilitators for parish/cluster planning. The job description was e-mailed. Motions were made, seconded and approved to recommend stipends and mileage rates for facilitator training and parish/cluster unit meetings.

–  There was an extensive report on the survey of retired priests in regard to availability and willingness to serve, including short term, long term and seasonal types of coverage needs. Minutes note most retired priests are willing to serve in some fashion when needed.

– The Special Collections schedule is still awaiting more deanery feedback.

– The issue of Nurse visits to retired priests was tabled pending more deanery feedback.

–  The head of the Priest Personnel Board expressed gratitude of the Board, Bishop Nickless to all priests for the willingness and flexibility encountered for this year’s personnel assignments. Due to preparations for implementing the Ministry 2025 pastoral plan there will not be the usual announcement of openings this year.

–  The Southwest Deanery reported they have no objection to reducing the Rite of Election to a single location in the future.

–  The October Convocation will have a presentation by a team from NOCERCC on Renewing Sunday Worship.

– Minutes note 9 people, including the Bishop will be attending the Convocation of Catholic Leaders in Orlando, July 1-4.

– Teams have been trained in all four Iowa dioceses to present on end-of-life-issues

– “Education Savings Accounts” are being considered. Implementation would probably be incremental, according to minutes.

– Finally, Bishop reiterates the most fundamental reason for pastoral planning is to revitalize parish and ecclesial life. The number of priests and demographic changes are relevant as well.

Council Notes from Louisville (February 2017)

The first agenda item of the February of the Louisville Council was a suggestion from the vicar for priests that the Policy Manual for the Remuneration for Priests be updated. Suggestions include:

  • Considering an annual rather than a multi-year compensation review
  • Expenses related to supply ministry
  • Reimbursement for out-of-pocket health care expenses
  • Long-term care insurance
  • Required auto insurance coverage
  • Compensation for International Priests, especially those in religious communities
  • Compensation for service beyond the age of retirement
  • Vision and dental insurance.

Members were asked to discuss the issues at regional meetings and report beck at the regular meeting

  •  The chancellor gave a report on parish budgets indicating between 55% and 80% of expenses are for personnel compensation and facilities. Other issues include:
  • Ways to reduce utility expenses was mentioned
  • Funding for planned repairs may be included in the parish budget rather than a capital campaign
  • 80% of parish income comes from regular donations and 20% from special fundraising
  • Particular attention to annual financial reporting by parishes was encouraged.
  • Archbishop Kurtz reported on his trip to Vietnam
  • The topic of Saturday evening weddings was discussed. There are few impediments to a Saturday evening wedding Mass after the anticipated Mass. Minutes note that each parish can decide if they wish to offer the option of a Saturday evening wedding balancing the effort with other obligations priests have on weekends.
  • Immigration issues were discussed. Minutes note there is much fear among undocumented Hispanics about possible deportation with the unintended effect that some may hesitate to report crimes for fear of being deported.
  • The chancellor reported the Catholic Services Appeal exceeded its goal. He remarked that that first time participants in the appeal increased 2.5%
  • The vicar for priests reported the process of matching open-listed parishes with priests called to serve them is continuing.
  • A report from the regions notes a discussion encouraging Hispanic participation in the diaconate formation program.
  • Finally, challenges in pastoral care of families wishing to receive the sacraments but not fully participating in preparation for those sacraments was brought up and discussed.

Council Notes from New Orleans (December 2016)

The first item on the agenda of the December meeting of the New Orleans Council was Social Media Policy for archdiocesan offices. Minutes note that policy focuses on general language and behavior with a proviso that church employees do not mix personal and institutional social media outreach. In addition, minutes note that archdiocesan social media policy can also be adapted for parishes. A member asked about appropriate supervisory oversight noting that the consequences of inappropriate social media behavior could result in termination.

– The Communication director and Pastoral Planning and Ministries director gave a presentation regarding revising the archdiocesan newsletter, Oracle. Minutes note the goal is to reduce the size, format, and frequency of the newsletter thus reducing the number of e-mails pastors need to receive. A new name will be created upon revision

– Members heard an update by the director of Pastoral Planning and Ministries on the implementation of archdiocesan synod. Members were requested to identify parish contact persons in the following areas: evangelization, vocations, marriage and family, and social justice. Archbishop Aymond encouraged all parishes to participate. Members were encouraged to discuss the synod at Deanery meetings.

– Greater awareness of lay ministry formation opportunities was discussed. Minutes noted the importance of extending a personal invitation to participate in lay ministry. The distinction between ministry and other forms of service was mentioned.

– Members were updated on the new curriculum for high school religion. In a related matter, the Office of Religious Education is developing a instrument to measure the effectiveness of Catholic religious education and formation programs.

– Due to distribution concerns, the matter of assigning deacons to specific terms was considered. This was a follow up to a previous council discussion. One membered opined that terms could break the culture of permanent assignments as well as creating a discernment process that could be helpful.

– The Continuing Formation Committee will send out dates for upcoming Continuing Formation Programs.

– Attached to minutes was a draft proposal on Parish Pastoral Councils

– Finally, Archbishop Aymond mentioned the possibility of forming a committee to review the various observances such as Catechetical Sunday and Family Sunday with an eye to determine if any overlapping exists.

Council Notes from Owensboro (January 20l7)

Bishop Medley reported on his trip to San Antonio for the SEEK conference held in conjunction with FOCUS, a Catholic campus ministry organization. He mentions his upcoming pilgrimage to Mexico to express gratitude to bishops for priests and sisters who minister in the diocese.

  • He offered observations on the Governor’s Commission on Criminal Justice Reform.
  • In his State of the Diocese address, he offered his observations on:
    • Amoris Laetitia
    • Disciples Response Fund
    • Parish Audit Process
  • In new business a proposal was made to encourage all pastors to set aside one Sunday per year to focus exclusively on the Bible. A suggestion was made to form a small committee to look into the proposal. A member also sketched out the key points made in Pope Francis’ apostolic letter Misericordia et Misera, released in November 2016 at the end of the Year of Mercy.
  • Members heard a report on the provincial meeting hosted by the diocese from Nov. 29-30.
  • Finally, in listening to a report on prison ministry, members expressed their wish to see a concerted effort on the part of the diocese to assist priests in their attempt to gain access to jails and prisons.

Council Notes from Louisville (January 2017) 

The chancellor circulated information on ways in which parishes could invest their savings in various saving products. He went on to say the Investment Subcommittee of the Archdiocesan Finance Council would be responsible for reviewing the designs of the alternatives offered screening them to ensure that are consistent with the Socially Responsible Investment Guidelines of the USCCB.

  • The chancellor updated members on finance issues during the first six months of the current fiscal year. Based on this, he presented three recommendations for the 2017-2018 fiscal year:
    • A reduction of 0.25% in the General Assessment,
    • A new goal for the Catholic Services Appeal,
    • A salary increase in the 2.0% to 2.5% range.
  • It was pointed out that perhaps a better way of talking about “obligations” of Catholics to their church is to frame it in terms of positive witness of active, responsible parishioners. Regions were encouraged to discuss the topic in greater depth.
  • Archbishop Kurtz talked about his upcoming trip to Vietnam, his recent pastoral letter that will lead tom discernment process in parishes, and the upcoming Synod on young people.
  • The chancellor discussed upcoming changes in location of some archdiocesan offices.
  • A new director of Youth Ministry will begin on April 1.
  • He gave an update on the V Encuentro process and added that over 50% of Catholics under the age 18 are Latino.
  • The vicar for priests introduced the assistant vicar, Father Matthew Hardesty.
  • Planning continues for the June 5-8 Presbyteral Assembly.
  • Consultation with parishes, which will be open-listed, is ongoing.
  • The vicar for priests expressed gratitude to a priest who took over as administrator of a parish and went on to thank all retired priests who continue to assist with many needs in the archdiocese.
  • The Transitional Diaconate ordination will take place on March 25. Ordination to the Priesthood happens on May 27.
  • The next Provincial Priests’ Council Meeting will be take place in Louisville, Nov. 28-29. Ways to encourage younger priests to attend was discussed. A concern was raised about the decrease in number of priests who attend the provincial meetings.
  • A concern was raised at the February Region 3 meeting in reference to decreasing options for dental and vision insurance upon retirement, just when those benefits are needed the most.
  • Minutes from the January Region 6 meeting included the following topics:
    • Funerals in funeral homes
    • Hispanic ministry
    • Matters before the State Legislature
    • How to motivate more priests to attend the provincial assembly.
  • The January Region 9 meeting took place at Gethsemane Family Retreat Center

Council Notes from Monterey (January 2017)

Bishop Garcia reported the death of Bishop Jose J. Madera, M.Sp.S., Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, on Jan. 21.

– The Latin Mass Community was discussed

– Human Resources for Priests and Mandated Reporter Training for Priests is being planned for the near future.

– The new Director of the Diaconate introduced himself to members.

– An extensive discussion took place on the topic of the Sanctuary Movement. Members expressed a variety of ways in which the diocese and parishes can assist without breaking the law. Catholic Charities would also be involved in helping immigrants at risk.

– The diocesan Parish Relationship Manager for Catholic Funeral & Cemetery Services is doing outreach to parishes on the new Catholic cremation guidelines (Ad resurgendum cum Christo – “To Rise with Christ”).

– The Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) requested to bring their program to the diocese. Minutes note the diocese would benefit from establishing a Department of Campus Ministry. Also would inquire if the CCC has a statewide vision for campus ministry.

– The Chrism Mass is scheduled for April 10.

– The Diocesan History Book has been delivered to most parishes.

– The Solar Energy initiative is on track. Bishop Garcia participated in a press conference on Jan. 20, to announce the rollout.

– Bishop Garcia appointed the vicar general to help with upcoming Confirmations.

– Minutes note the diocese has 19 seminarians in various phases of formation. 7 are in their Pastoral Year. 4 are scheduled to be ordained to the diaconate in May and 4 to be ordained to the priesthood in June.

–  The recently retired director of Pastoral Planning for the Diocese of San Bernardino will speak to a joint meeting of the Pastoral and Presbyteral Councils in March. The goal is to do training of personnel in models of Pastoral Planning. A suggestion was made that the diocese form an office of planning.

–  Minutes note the director of the Diaconate Office will be directing Lay Leadership in the diocese.

– The Intentional Presbyterate process was discussed.

– The Synod for Young People to take place in 2018 per a handout form the USCCB

– National marriage Week observed Feb.7-14.

– The Design Meeting with an organization specialist from the Taos Institute and vicars is scheduled for March.

– Minutes note the diocese will sponsor a Catechetical Conference this year.

– The diocese’s Golden Jubilee Mass is scheduled for Dec. 17, 2017.

Council Notes from Owensboro (November 2016)

In his report at the November meeting of the Owensboro Council, Bishop Medley informed members that the USCCB is publishing a letter on racism in 2018 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

– Bishop invited ten pastors to join him for a “Vision day” at his home as a new forum for listening to priests. This practice will continue until all priests have been invited for the conversation.

– Minutes note the updated version of diocesan policy manual will contain information on formal priests’ reviews. The Vicar for Clergy will be consulted. This issue will be discussed further.

– A question was raised concerning whether a priest may choose to take less salary from a parish than the diocese requires and donate the excess portion to the parish. After an extensive discussion, it was determined that the priest draw a full salary then donate the portion he desires – two separate actions.

– The director of Hispanic Ministry will invited to a future meeting to address how to best accommodate undocumented immigrants who choose not to marry for fear of creating a paper trail of their activity.

–  Finally, a question from a deanery about allocation of funds addressed in the diocesan financial report was tabled until a representative of the deanery could be present.

Council Notes from Green Bay (January 2017)

– Council members were informed that Holy Name Retreat House on Chambers Island in Door County was sold. The diocese was holding on to 26 of the 70-acre property.

– A motion was made, seconded, and unanimously passed to recommend a 2.5 percent salary increase for the upcoming fiscal year. The current business mileage rate was also approved. The term fiscal will now be in front of year.

– Members discussed the principle training/education project for the diocese.  Discipleship is the main focus and is being rolled out in two phases. Minutes note by 2020 all major stakeholders will have gone though the process.

– Discussion continued about the retired priest independent living facility at Grellinger Hall [see Council Notes, June 2016]. A survey was sent to priests 65 and older. Results showed an interest in using it as an assisted living facility. Minutes note there are currently six assisted living facilities in the diocese.

– The Parish Survey developed by a research group at St. Norbert College garnered a 50 percent response rate. Three points surfaced during Council discussion:

Ÿ Distinguish between priests and other job groups

Ÿ Extent to which council members and other priests in the field are in agreement or not

Ÿ Percent of responses that were from those between the ages of 18 and 24.

– In reference to the discussion, Bishop Ricken mentioned a book by Gary Keller, “The One Thing.” The take-away – How can leadership best serve parishes? More data will be forthcoming from the open-ended questions

– Member discussed forming a Liturgical Commission. It would have a mix of 10 to 12 members both lay and clergy.

– Finally, a member suggested a better wellness plan.

Council Notes from Louisville (November 2016)

The November meeting of the Louisville Council began with a report from the director of the Catholic Conference of Kentucky about how the change in control of the state legislature may effect issues like school choice, pro-life, criminal justice reform, health care, and Right to Work laws.

– The president of EdChoice, a non-profit organization that aims to give families more choices in education, explained to members the differences between Charter Schools, Vouchers, Educational Savings Accounts, and Scholarship Tax Credits. He is trying to build grass roots support for the programs and offered to come to talk to Parish Councils or others in parishes about the various programs.

– The vicar general discussed a worksheet showing how the net assessment rate to total, income might be if the assessment models used by surrounding dioceses were applied in the Archdiocese. At this point they are simply options to review.

– The chancellor shared that a subcommittee of the Archdiocesan Finance Council has been appointed. He explained the various investments options that will be available to parishes. The chancellor also announced that there will not be an archdiocesan-wide capital campaign at this time.

– A new design for 401K retirement plans should be in place by Jan. 1, 2018. The Priests’ Compensation Committee is reviewing overall compensation for priests and may recommend changing the contribution amount for priests’ retirement.

– Included in the updated USCCB strategic plan initiative is the 5th Encuentro to take place in 2018. Diocesan and provincial gatherings in 2017 will lead up to the 2018 event.

– There will be five regional gatherings for deacons throughout the Archdiocese this spring.

– The chancellor reported that the Archdiocesan Finance Council received a clean bill of health

– Eight parishes will be involved in a pilot project to discern processes for future growth. A church-consulting agency will assist the parishes.

– 70% of the goal of the Catholic Services Appeal has been reached.

– The vicar for priests is meeting priests approaching retirement. The Priests’ Personnel Board is working on scenarios and clarifying which parishes might be open listed.

– Minutes of January meeting of the Region 3 revealed a communication concern in chaplaincy services in one healthcare system.

– Finally, Region 3 members were unanimous in their decision to require deacons to obtain written permission of a pastor to conduct a funeral service for a parishioner.

Council Notes from Monterey (November 2016)

The first topic of discussion at the November meeting of the Monterey Council centered on campus ministry at University of California Santa Cruz and California State University Monterey Bay. Focus is on a long-term approach to campus ministry in light of decline in the number of priests in the future. Suggestion made to dedicate long term priestly ministers who are specially trained for the position. Consensus was a full service ministerial approach is preferable.

– The finance officer gave an update on the diocesan-wide Solar Energy Initiative. The diocese is collaborating with the Romero Institute, a Santa Cruz-based interfaith law and public policy center on this effort.

– The proposed Presbyteral summit is still under consideration. Securing the services of a priest of the Diocese of Orange to focus on the topic of an Intentional Presbyterate was mentioned.

– Minutes note a discussion about seminarian formation in light of the withdrawal of the Sulpicians from St. Patrick Seminary & University in Menlo Park. A consideration was put forth to use Assumption Seminary in San Antonio.

– The Vatican document updating guidelines on cremation (Ad resurgendum cum Christo – “To Rise with Christ”) was distributed. Outreach services to parishes are available through the Parish Relationship Manager.

– Minutes note a Catholic Army Chaplain reported that his salary was reduced. The matter may be raised with the Archdiocese for the Military Services.

– Bishop Garcia will send a letter to Pastors requesting three new members for the Pastoral Council Board. The Board has approximately 18 lay members.

– Consideration was discussed of having the Faith Formation Department host conferences in the North and South areas of the diocese.

– Two candidates have been chosen as finalists for the Director of Diaconate and Lay Ministry Leadership.

– Finally, Bishop passed around a copy of a book he received as a gift titled, “What if Your Pastor is a Dud?” by Brian T. Joyce (Aventine Press, Sept. 2016). Minutes note he thought some would find it interesting.