|Vicariate Links Team Report
Pastoral Priority: New Evangelisation
October 2010- June 2011
Following the conclusion of Synod in January 2009, parishes began working on their pastoral plans for implementation of the first pastoral priority of the New Evangelisation. These plans were presented in December of that year and parishes set the plans in motion right away. The theme Catholic Family, become what you are was chosen as an overarching theme for the year.
Having been appointed in October 2010, the Vicariate Links began making contact with the parishes in their respective vicariates. It did take some time for the links to get their footing and establish viable links with persons in each parish but for the most part, this was eventually done. What they found was that it was much easier not to liaise with the parish priest or administrators themselves but rather with a designated layperson who would provide information on a regular basis. The Links reported that with some, getting information was easy, while with others it still proves to be a challenge.
The Links are now in a much more comfortable position with the parishes of their respective vicariates and have been involving themselves in various ways, providing support etc. It is believed that for the next pastoral priority, given the work that has already been done, the process of implementation should be made easier and the communication between the parishes and the Synod Implementation Team more efficient.
Ranking of the parishes was done objectively being based on the number of projects undertaken and completed related to Evangelisation of the Family. Parishes completing three or more substantial projects were considered to have exceeded expectations; parishes completing 1-3 major projects were considered to have met expectations and parishes not completing any were ranked as not meeting expectations. In this way, the parishes were not penalised for being ambitious in their pastoral plans.
In the early stages of Synod Implementation, suggestions were made as to how parishes and vicariates should organise themselves to achieve their stated goals. This included the formation of a Parish Implementation Team (PIT) in each parish and a Vicariate Implementation Team. The Archdiocesan Synod Implementation team also made suggestions for the skill sets to be included on these bodies. What many parishes found, however, was that it was difficult to get persons to commit to such a task and some parishes operated without a PIT. Many pulled their PIT as a subset of their pastoral council with essentially the same people serving but with a different chair, different meeting times and so on.
It was, however, observed that the absence of these PITs did not necessarily hamper the Synod implementation process as some parishes performed quite well without them but their presence within the parish structure did indeed help as most of the parishes exceeding their expectations had both PITs and Pastoral Councils operating.
As the smallest in the Archdiocese, the Central Vicariate has performed quite well with each of its parishes achieving quite desirable results based on their pastoral plans for the Year of the Family. It should be noted, however, that this was one of the Vicariates where collaboration on a Vicariate Level was very minimal to non-existent during the time of the first phase of Synod Implementation.
The Central Vicariate is also the only one in the Archdiocese with a priest to parish ratio of 100% having five priests serving the five parishes of the vicariate. This is likely to have been a driving factor in the individual performances of the parishes as they moved forward to implement their plans for the first phase of the Synod Process.
At the end of the first phase of Synod Implementation, the Eastern Vicariate has seen a lot of activity coming out of the parish pastoral plans. According to the Link, “Ordinary things are happening and extraordinary things are happening”. He says this to highlight the number of new initiatives that have been pioneered in the last year as part of the New Evangelisation Pastoral Priority.
Many of these new initiatives, which would have taken a lot of innovative thinking, were coupled with the regular celebrations that parishes within the Vicariate usually have to make the Eastern Vicariate a hub of positive activity.
There are however, those parishes which face serious problems in terms of their pastoral work allowing them to only achieve the bare minimum of pastoral activity. A major factor causing this is the lack of commitment in many of the parishes. It can clearly be seen that where this is coupled with a lack of clergy in certain parishes, performance and achievement is very low. The lack of clergy even with the presence of five deacons in the Vicariate proves to be a problem, especially around times of big celebrations such as Easter.
The Northern Vicariate is challenged with a dynamic in the majority of its parishes that the other Vicariates, for the most, part do not face. This is the fact that many of these parishes are urban, making it quite difficult to get persons to commit to serving in various capacities and perform tasks necessary for the achievement of the pastoral plans.
To this end, although these parishes may be relatively better off in terms of financial resources, they find serious difficulty in sourcing of lay personnel, with many parishioners caught up in very fast-paced lives leaving little or no time fo
The Northern Vicariate is also home to the Chancery and many of the main offices of administration of the Archdiocese. This is believed to be an advantage the Vicariate does not fully utilise.
On the flip side, there are parishes within the vicariate, which are quite far flung, not as close in geographic proximity to the rest of the vicariate. It should be noted that in spite of the seeming challenges, two of the three have met expectations. One of these remote parishes however, has not been able to achieve much in terms of its Synod Implementation.
The performance of the parishes of the Southern Vicariate was generally acceptable with most parishes meeting many of the goals set out in their pastoral plans. There were some parishes, however, where information on performance was hard to come by. In fact, in one parish in particular, there was no information received concerning synod implementation. This signalled not only a breakdown in external communication but also when investigated, it was discovered that there was also a poor internal communications structure within these parishes.
Another notable challenge for some of the parishes lay with the clergy. In the Southern Vicariate, there are currently 12 priests and three deacons serving the 15 parishes, which provides a relatively acceptable ratio of clergy to parish. However, there have been complaints from a number of parishes about the clergy ranging from unmotivated priests to those who face challenges with cultural differences.
Sometimes classified as the fastest growing vicariate, the Suburban Vicariate has truly demonstrated its ability to tap into its potential in the implementation of the first pastoral priority coming out of Synod 2009. The resources directly available to the parishes in the vicariate include the presence of the Regional Seminary and Faculty of Theology, the Caroni Bible Institute and the Catholic Chaplaincy of the University of the West Indies. The area is also home to a number of religious congregations providing a number of other resources available for the parishes.
The general performance of the parishes was quite good with the exception of one parish, which incidentally is the smallest parish in the vicariate (and possibly the Archdiocese). There were a few hiccups in communications with a few other parishes, most of which have since been resolved.
Essentially, the year of the Family, the focus of the first pastoral priority, has paved the way for the implementation of the resolutions to come in the other two pastoral priorities. This was not without a number of hiccups as communities felt around to find the formula that worked best for them. At the end of the day, however, the outcome from an Archdiocesan perspective is very promising. It should be noted that on aggregate, there were more parishes exceeding expectations than there were parishes not meeting expectations.
The parishes have come to the understanding that at the end of the day, it was the outcomes and the work done in God’s name that mattered as opposed to the processes and bureaucracies. They have also come to understand more deeply the importance of motivating and mobilising parishioners to rally around a common cause and that the best way to do this is through effective communication both within the parishes and externally. An understanding of the need to set objectives and draft pastoral plans which are Sensible, Manageable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-sensitive as opposed to overambitious plans. Essentially, each parish is unique and has to find the right formula for doing the work of God in their area.
Coming out of the first phase of synod implementation the points for improvement, some of which were mentioned above, become clear but all in all, the future of the Archdiocese and its work looks quite promising as we continue to strive to build a civilisation of love in our society.