The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has announced the beginning of an archdiocese-wide initiative for parishes to define their identity, mission and goals and to determine if they have the resources to sustain themselves.
The Parish Pastoral Planning Initiative involves 44 Pastoral Planning Areas, each made up of several parishes in the same geographic vicinity. Each area will create a pastoral plan in a “prayerful and participative process,” the archdiocese said.
Outcomes of each area plan may include no change in structure, or they may include parish mergers.
The first 22 planning areas will begin their work now and are expected to finish over the next three years. The remaining areas will likely require another three years to complete their work.
Msgr. Arthur E. Rodgers, coordinator of Archdiocesan Planning Initiatives and the Archdiocesan Strategic Planning Committee, will oversee the project.
The archdiocese said that no decisions have been made about any of the areas.
According to the archdiocese, the quality of parish life has been “seriously impacted” by demographic shifts, a decline in weekly Mass attendance, a high density of parishes in a relatively small geographic area, the availability of clergy, “serious” financial challenges and underused parish facilities.
In 2010, Cardinal Justin Rigali issued a pastoral letter outlining the need to examine all the archdiocese’s 266 parishes to determine if they have the resources to fulfill their role.
In a Dec. 8, 2012 pastoral letter, the cardinal’s successor Archbishop Charles J. Chaput described “very serious” financial and organizational issues in the archdiocese. He warned that some, and perhaps many, archdiocesan schools may be forced to close or combine.