Voicing hopes for next five years in diocese: Parishes begin holding meetings for diocesan consultation process, regional deanery meetings set for April

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Catholics in Delaware and Maryland’s Eastern Shore have started attending consultation meetings at their parishes to discuss five-year goals in mission and ministry for the Diocese of Wilmington.

The meetings are the next step in the diocesan-wide consultation announced in February by Bishop Malooly. The priests of the diocese met last month in Cambridge, Md., to suggest goals at the start of the process.

Deacon Robert McNulty, a member of the Consultation Committee named by Bishop Malooly, said his parish, St. Luke’s in Ocean City, Md., has already met to discuss goals for the diocese.

“I’m very hopeful,” Deacon McNulty said. St. Luke’s parishioners “seemed to be very pleased and enthused the bishop is reaching out to a good cross-section of the diocese.” St. Luke’s pastor, Father Richard Smith, encouraged all parishioners to attend, Deacon McNulty said.

The St. Luke parishioners discussed a wide-range of subjects, “conversation starters,” provided by the Consultation Committee, he said.

Looking at the shortage of priests and developing lay leadership in the diocese were two subjects that drew a lot of discussion at St. Luke’s, Deacon McNulty said.

Next at St. Luke’s, Father Smith will name as many as eight people from the parish to attend a deanery meeting at St. Ann’s in Bethany Beach on April 22 to share the parish’s goals for the diocese on a regional level.

 Exercise in hope

Terry Gerlach DiFonzo, pastoral associate for Christian formation at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Wilmington, is also a member of the Consultation Committee.

She called the diocesan consultation process “a very organized plan that’s an exercise in hope for the future.”

DiFonzo said the committee has noted that if there’s not a vision for the diocese, “you can’t do anything. You just flounder.”

Now’s the time for the consultation, she said, because “we have not done this as a diocese for quite a while.” Also, “we have left behind the bankruptcy and it’s time to center on something very positive. We do have a vision of hope.”

DiFonzo said the input from priests of the diocese on future goals “was really very multifaceted and gave enough for us to dig into.”

DiFonzo praised the work of Sister Suzanne Donovan, director of the Human Resources Office of the diocese, who designed the consultation process and is facilitating the work of the Consultation Committee.

“The steps sister gave are very direct” and the information packets sent to parishes are very precise and should help parishioners through the consultation meetings, she said.

At Immaculate Heart of Mary, Msgr. Clement P. Lemon has invited members of the pastoral council, finance council, organization representatives and all parishioners to the parish consultation.

“It’s an opportunity for anyone to speak out,” DiFonzo said.

 Open spirit

Justin Carisio, a diocesan Consultation Committee member from St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Wilmington, said the spirit of the committee has been very open.

“I think there’s a real sense of hope and promise that the process is really going to be of value to the diocese,” he said.

Carisio said the diocesan committee put together the eight “conversation starters” for parish meetings based on the suggestions from the diocesan priests’ meeting last month.

“I think they cover a lot of different things people in the diocese will be interested in. They should generate really good conversations at the parish level and at the deanery meetings after that.”

Noting that the process is scheduled so the Consultation Committee can submit a report to the bishop in June, Carisio said, “There’s a value to the intensity of the process. Usually the stuff that comes out early is probably what’s really on people’s minds.”

Carisio, who works in public affairs for DuPont, said he likes the fact the consultation allows many voices to contribute.

“Who knows where the conversation will go?” he asked. “It’s an opportunity to listen as well. Bishop Malooly will hear the voices of the people of his diocese and I think that’s a good thing.”

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Conversation starters for parish  meetings on diocesan consultation

Parishioners in the Diocese of Wilmington are taking part in the diocesan-wide consultation process called by Bishop Malooly to develop diocesan goals for the next five years. The following are the “eight conversation starters,” from the diocesan Consultation Committee, for discussion.

• Building sustainable and vibrant Catholic faith communities

With a broader understanding of the distinct nature of each parish in the diocese, explore ways for expanding collaboration among parishes, such as shared  ministries, ministers, resources and possible consolidation of schools.

• New paradigms for lay leadership in the Catholic community both at parish and diocesan levels

Consider ways clergy and lay persons are better able to share the ministries and responsibilities within the local faith community. Determine ways to better recruit lay ministers to share responsibilities and ministry within the local faith community. Explore the best ways to prepare clergy and laity for their responsibilities and ministries together.

• Evangelization (Proclaiming and living the Gospel)

Develop improved methods of reaching out to former Catholics, Generations X and Y, young people and the un-churched. Provide inspiration, education and formation to develop parishioners into evangelizers.

• Catholic formation through Catholic schools, religious education programs, adult faith formation and youth ministry

Explore the most effective ways/models to enhance/advance and sustain these ministries with consideration given to life styles, pace of life, technology and training.

• Cultural diversity

Recognizing that we have a diverse population within our diocese, explore ways the parishes can move to a better integrated faith community that celebrates differences among people.  Provide training to support proactive outreach to all immigrants.

• Recovery and Healing

Explore ways to restore trust and provide healing for survivors and the faith community of the diocese. Develop succession plans for diocesan level ministries, including laity. Improve the diocese’s ability to function as a business.

• Explore ways to best transition diocesan leadership and better integrate laity in diocesan ministries.

Continue to improve communications and transparency at all levels. Follow “best practices” model.

• Support of priestly life and ministry

Examine ways to more fully root the call to priesthood in family and community life. Explore the manner in which the entire community can help support the priestly ministry.

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Diocesan Consultation Committee

Justin Carisio, Wilmington

Msgr. J. Thomas Cini

Theresa Gerlach DiFonzo, Wilmington

Father Charles Dillingham, Hockessin

Father Joseph Drobinski, Wilmington

Msgr. John Hopkins, Newark

Father David Kelley, Bethany Beach

Cindy Mann, Wilmington

Raymond Manza, Hockessin

Deacon Robert McNulty, Fenwick Island

Kathy Phillips-Giles, Wilmington

Father Joseph Piekarksi, Elkton, Md.

Patricia Pikulsky, Selbyville

Mark Record, Berlin, Md.

Andrew Webb, Easton,  Md.

Terri Mullins Young, Wilmington

Sister Suzanne Donovan, facilitator