Most institutions have policies and processes that regularly review and evaluate their operations to see what improvements can and should be done to better adapt to the changing environment in which they exist. Such review and the consequential changes spell the difference between evolution and extinction. The oldest and still functioning institution, ‘The Church’, is no exception. Bishop Persico mentioned the need for a Diocesan Strategic plan in his column in August 2013 Faith Magazine. The hope of his article and all the other announcements is to inform rather than alarm people. But hope alone is not enough we ourselves must adopt the proper attitude for any progress to be made.
Change is necessary for life to exist, and yet we quite naturally resist and resent change because it challenges and stretches us beyond our comfortable and complacent zones (sometimes known as ‘ruts’.) But it is usually at the boundaries of transition where life and growth are the most abundant. Despite how good and necessary changes may be in the long run, change is often experienced as painful particularly if we have atrophied in the way things used to be and are no longer flexible. But if we keep our focus on the growth needed for life in the future, the challenges can turn into opportunities.
The only reason the Church has survived for two thousand years, is through the tenacious patience and pressure of the Holy Spirit, and we can be assured that the Holy Spirit is just as much a part of our present and our future. The Kingdom of God will unfold with or without our help, but things will go much more smoothly if we are remain conscious that God has a plan even if we are not privy to the exact details.
In regards to the strategic plan for the diocese of Erie, as of yet there are no details so if you are hearing rumors about specific parishes and schools being closed or merged, rumors are all they are because at this initial phase there is no specific plan besides the plan to have one. Some significant changes will necessarily occur but these are not going to be shots in the dark but rather decisions based upon extensive evaluation of where we are and where we want to be as Catholics in north western Pennsylvania.
I would like to suggest that we as individuals and as a parish adopt a habit of prayer for the future. We often pray for specific personal needs and desires for the future, but should we not also pray for the flexibility to accept the changes that will come in this life? The only thing we know for sure is that God will be there with us regardless of the future brings. If we keep our eyes on God we’ll more likely trust that the changes will eventually bring us closer to Him.
Rev. Mark O’Hern