Raleigh: A diocese with a plan

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As Bishop Michael F. Burbidge moves to the Diocese of Arlington, he leaves behind a pastoral plan that will lead the Diocese of Raleigh, N.C., in to the future. 

“When the bishop first got here, we had not had a formal planning document in place for several years,” said Mike Fedewa, Raleigh superintendent of schools. Focusing on five priorities set by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and two local priorities, diocesan leaders came out with their first plan in 2010 and their latest iteration in 2014. 

The plan sets objectives to promote the life and dignity of the human person, faith formation focused on sacramental practice, recognition of cultural diversity with a special emphasis on Hispanic Catholics, priestly and religious vocations, marriage and family life, stewardship, and planning for growth. How to implement those directives was left up to individual chancery offices. 

“(Bishop Burbidge) would meet monthly with key department heads, and a part of that monthly meeting was how we were executing the pastoral plan,” said Fedewa. “This wasn’t about creating a document you put on a desk somewhere. This was a document that reflected the priorities of the national and local church.”  It was a thoughtful look at the priorities, which aimed to make a difference in the lives of the faithful, he said.

Many of the initiatives focused on training lay catechists for things such as youth groups, Theology of the Body, confirmation and catechizing children with special needs. Fedewa said much of the was made available online because of the great geographic size of the diocese —  32,000 square miles. 

To promote life and human dignity, the diocese worked to develop parent guide booklets for human sexuality and engaged state agencies to strengthen prison ministries. To support family life, they prioritized “geographic accessibility to marriage counseling” and the creation of a Marriage and Family Life advisory board with representatives from the eight deaneries.

Bishop Burbidge also looked within the chancery, said Fedewa. In January, he grouped several offices in order to create a Secretariat for Lay Formation, Marriage and Family Life so that different cultural ministries and family-focused offices could work more closely together.

“He wanted it to be more strategic,” said Fedewa. “How do we break down those barriers, because we’re all one church here? How can we can be more efficient with our resources and promote the unity the church espouses?”

Bishop Burbidge said the shift was made “in light of our Holy Father’s great priority to do much more effective work in supporting the vocation of faithful married love, especially the ongoing formation of married couples. More than ever we need holy families. The church can be more present in the life of families.”

Every step of the way, the bishop oversaw the progress, from college campus ministries to the development of liturgical ministers. “We didn’t report to a vicar general,” said Fedewa. “We reported directly to him, so he was engaged in a lot of boots on the ground initiatives.”

Read the pastoral plan in its entirety here.

 

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016

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