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How Catholics can help Bishop Burbidge implement the strategic plan

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Strengthening Catholic schools, reinvigorating parish communities and increasing charitable works are some of the priorities the diocese will focus on over the next five years, according to a new strategic plan Bishop Michael F. Burbidge announced Sept. 27. Over the past year, many laypeople and clergy have been consulted about their ideas, hopes and concerns for the diocese. Based on those discussions, the resulting plan has six strategic pillars, or areas of focus. Each pillar has five corresponding objectives, or goals, to be achieved over the next five years through the participation of the entire diocese. 

The six pillars are: Revitalize Evangelization and Faith Formation; Cultivate Authentic Discipleship in Christ; Invigorate Catholic Education for All; Strengthen Parish and Family Life; Foster One Communion of Many Cultures; and Deepen Our Commitment to Charitable Works. Some objectives include making Catholic schools more affordable and accessible, building faith formation around the entire family and providing more resources for those suffering from a range of mental health issues. 

“We have many spiritual and pastoral needs across our diocese,” said Bishop Burbidge. “I commissioned a strategic plan with common goals for the next five years to address these needs. My hope is that this strategic plan will unite us in our prayer and our work for this diocese.”

Across the diocese, Catholics of varying ages, ethnicities and vocations had a hand in forming the plan. “This strategic plan was the product of broad consultation with priests, religious and laity over the last year,” said Bishop Burbidge. “We held 26 focus groups and conducted three surveys. In total, we received the input of hundreds of parishioners throughout the diocese.”

Kathy Pryor, a parishioner of St. Catherine of Siena Church in Great Falls, was one of 18 members of a committee that met every two weeks for six months, often with Bishop Burbidge. “(When this started) about a year ago, we had just been through six very difficult months with the pandemic and this seemed like such a wonderfully positive, future-directed, forward-thinking effort,” she said. “And in my opinion, it’s kind of a critical time for the church.”

Pryor sees the strategic plan as a “shared playbook” for how the diocese will work together to confront ongoing challenges and meet collective goals. It’s not just for church employees, but for everyone, said Bishop Burbidge. “This strategic plan is for the entire diocese. It is not a plan just for my staff or for the priests, but for all the faithful of the Diocese of Arlington. I invite all Catholics in this diocese to join me and our priests in an exciting new chapter of innovation, creativity, and above all, growth in our spiritual lives and our service to the Lord and to one another.”

Bishop Burbidge hopes that this plan will help all parishes and organizations in the diocese reorient their priorities. “This is a living document that will chart a course of refocused ministry, evangelization and service through the Diocese of Arlington,” he said. “Resources are always limited — but with God’s grace, and united in our goals and objectives — we can accomplish so much spiritual and pastoral good for our diocese.” 

Each pillar has a corresponding working group, comprised of clergy, religious and lay people, that will look for solutions for each of the objectives. The faithful are encouraged to email possible solutions to strategy@arlingtondiocese.org. Over the next year, the best ideas will be put into practice. In some cases, achieving the objectives is just a matter of finding an effective approach from one parish and bringing it to others, said Ward Jones, chief operations officer for the diocese, who has organized much of the effort.


“If some parishes have vibrant parish lives where everyone wants to be at that parish on the weekdays, how do we take that goodness and spread that?” he said. “We can use current solutions that are working.” 

Father Ramon A. Baez, pastor of Holy Family Church in Dale City and a member of the strategic plan committee, is looking forward to seeing the fruits of the plan. “For me as a pastor, evangelization and Catholic education (are) a big deal,” he said. “I'm really excited about how the school and religious education program are going to really meet the needs of the Catholics we have now and also hopefully invite some of our brothers and sisters who have wandered away back into the faith.”

Pryor hopes the plan serves as a call to action for those in the pews. “Start first with yourself and say, ‘Where am I in my faith life?’ and then, ‘How can I help my parish?” she said. “Over and over again I heard that grassroots efforts by the laity are the ones that work. So, I’m hoping that people will step up and take a risk.”


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021