Keys to successful diocesan planning discussed at Sept 2011 Upper 09212011%20Diocesan%20Planning%20Forum.pdfMidwest Diocesan Planners meeting were:

A. Bishop’s Vision Narrative is critical and the narrative in enhanced by measures and numbers
B. Pastoral Planning is a different focus than typical business strategic planning
C. Pastoral Planning is about the relationships between Bishop, priests, staff and faithful, the living of faith and effective ministry
D. Pastoral Planning requires data and analysis from demographics, parishioner choice, sacraments, schools, ministry and stewardship to inform the Current Reality and provide balance to in-place stories, politics and personalities
E. Pastoral Planning is ongoing, adaptive and not predictive and episodic.
In addition the participating planners shared real examples of sound practices across the midwest in areas of decision making processes, clarifying authority within process and clarification of the roles of bishops, priests, staff and the faithful

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Comment by Ben Mokry on January 2, 2012 at 11:58am

Thanks for sharing.  Helpful to see how this diocese is working on organizational challenges and demographic trends that many Catholic communities face today.  

It helps to focus on facilitating a rich response to this question  "How is the Spirit calling us to action in our particular setting today?" If we believe God's message is alive and ever new, church leaders need to be willing to make room for unexpected, even uncomfortable answers to our current problems.  God is usually surprising and good ideas for action might come in unexpected forms and people if we are open to them.  Work being done by the Missional Network ( provides useful concepts and tools that are worth considering by those working in Catholic settings.

Comment by Paula Ruddy on January 4, 2012 at 9:37am

Hi, Dennis.  These are 5 great points about diocesan planning.  At the Midwest Diocesan Planners meeting were there representatives from Diocesan Pastoral Councils?  Do the DPCs typically do this kind of planning or is that a staff job?  Do you know if there is a list of dioceses that have DPCs?  Thanks.

Comment by Dennis Cheesebrow on January 4, 2012 at 10:19am

Paula, thanks for the insightful questions. There were non representatives from DPC. I am not sure if any of these dioceses have a DPC. Typically the responsibility for planning lies with a staff position with the DPC acting as a consultative body to that Office as well as the Bishop and his consultors / cabinet.

Comment by Paula Ruddy on January 4, 2012 at 10:50am

Thanks, Dennis.  Can you tell me how most dioceses get feedback from the faithful (as in C above) in your experience?  I was thinking that is what the DPC was for, but maybe not. There must be some other mechanisms in use. I am trying to make the case for a DPC in our archdiocese, or for the best practice to elicit feedback from the faithful.

Comment by Dennis Cheesebrow on January 13, 2012 at 10:02am

Ben raises an important and often overlooked aspect of Mission and Vision work at the diocesan and parish level. An interesting question I have found to pose is : "What does God (Holy Spirit) desire for, and of, us a Church and faith community in the next three to five years?" The intentional shift of the question and discernment away from the typical focus on the temporal aspects of planning and vision statement development serves to free up individuals and deepen their connections with the movement of the Holy Spirit in their discussions.

Comment by Peter Denio on January 13, 2012 at 11:29am


Thanks for the keys to successful diocesan planning.  It is always nice to have a set of guiding principles to help determine what diocesan planning includes and what it does not.

Can you explain further what is meant in item E.  That diocesan planning should be ongoing and episodic?

Comment by Dennis Cheesebrow on January 13, 2012 at 11:33am

Diocesan planning should be a continuous activity at the highest levels of the dioceses and not on a schedule. When "stuff" happens (episodic) the Pastoral Plan,  at either the diocesan or parish levels, needs to be adaptive, not static, to be valued for its responsiveness and results, not its predictive nature.

Comment by Jim Lundholm-Eades on January 31, 2012 at 5:17pm

Very helpful Dennis. Diocesan planners need to think and act systemically. That means firstly that the people involved and their roles need to be in "right relationship." what is the role of the bishop, the pastor, the parish community, the school board, the finance council, etc. and how should they interact? Setting the roles and boundaries to those relationships before you start planing is key to success. Beginning a major planning time while the players are not sure how they relate to each other is asking for trouble. 

Comment by Dennis Cheesebrow on February 1, 2012 at 3:30pm


Thanks for the insight and language regarding right relationships. I have found this to be invaluable in both alignment on Mission and hopes as well as creativity and openness when working on vision, strategy and change. Too often, the relational assumptions, clarity and dynamics are brushed over to get to the "real work". And then the planning and strategic thinking process is constantly looping back to deal with the need to operate out of right relationships, roles and boundaries.

Comment by Paula Ruddy on February 1, 2012 at 4:23pm

Hi, Jim and Dennis.  I am very interested in what you are talking about but I may not have facility with the language.  I think I get the part about having roles clearly defined--where the decision-making responsibility should be clear.  But I am wondering if important questions can fall through the cracks between boundaries?  For example, in the strategic planning process in our Archdiocese, the planning was based on some demographical facts like the fact that 34% of registered Catholics attend weekly Mass.  The fact sheet said that is in line with the national average.  Whose responsibility is it to ask why 2/3rds of Catholics do not go to Mass?  Another example, the number of young people who exit faith formation after Confirmation.  Whose responsibility to ask why?  Are those questions related to planning and would a Diocesan Pastoral Council address them?


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