Office of Planning: Helping parishes fulfill their mission Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Written by Grant Emmel, Director, Office of Planning, Diocese of Madison   
Thursday, May. 20, 2010 -- 12:00 AM

The Office of Planning has its strategic mission focused on parish pastoral planning, that is, helping parish leadership, be it pastors, councils, or staff, fulfill their mission of building “a familial and welcoming home” (Christifideles Laici, 26) for each parish community.

This is done through programs such as Trusting in the Spirit, workshops on cemeteries and councils, training for QuickBooks and ParishSOFT, Web resources, and documentation in many areas where there are no other resources readily available.

We work to assist parish communities in their efforts to plan how they can be good stewards of the gifts they are given and to be there when things don’t work out as planned.

Building strong relationships with parishes

Our ability to communicate directly with diocesan staff also makes for a broader distribution of information to parishes. We have built many strong relationships with parishes and are proud and grateful that every phone call, every e-mail, and every letter that we answer, because of your support, helps to make for a stronger Church.

Close relationships with parish staff are the best outcome of our daily work, our favorite part, actually, and we foster them because of four distinct values: Brotherhood, Leadership, Goodwill, and Communication.

Brotherhood: Parishes have independence but are not alone; parishes need one another and the diocese.

Leadership: Parishes are on the front lines of ministry and need diocesan support and direction to be effective with ever diminishing resources.

Goodwill: The diocese depends upon the goodwill of parishes and parishioners to provide the support needed for parishes and to do the ministries that are diocesan in nature.

Communication: The diocese and parishes must use every type of communication and opportunity to stay connected and build goodwill.

These values color all of our work, both daily and long term.

What the office does

I have written a lot (some say too much!) about the Office of Planning’s work on pastoral planning primarily through Guided by the Spirit and Trusting in the Spirit. But instead of talking about how your support of the ACA helps with that, I thought that I’d tell you a little bit about some of the other work that we’re involved with.

Of course we’re completely involved with all of the parish mergers and this includes a lot of work with both civil law (such as deeds, creating new corporations, creating and filling out many other documents, and converting financial and data records) and canonical law (such as decrees creating the merger).

We talk a lot with lawyers and government officials to ensure that we’re doing things correctly, as there aren’t manuals for this type of thing in the Church.

We also get contacted with questions about cemeteries. There might be questions about cemetery mapping software (since you really need to know where everybody is), ownership records, insurance, regulations about monuments, and where to put the dirt.

We receive a lot of questions and requests for information about pastoral and finance councils, whether it’s about their role, operation, or rules. We especially enjoy traveling around the diocese to talk to people about parish administration and councils.

Our office also helps the Office of the Vicar General to take care of all the statistical information that is collected from parishes, ensuring that all of the various reported information (well over a hundred items), such as baptisms, marriages, and Confirmations, that are required by the Vatican are properly recorded. Another project we’re looking into is trying to figure out ways to look at all that data to make it meaningful (and useful) to pastors and parishioners.

We also provide and support training for parish staff at the Bishop O’Connor Pastoral Center, especially with ParishSOFT, the diocese and parish’s main census tool, and we’re very excited about the new QuickBooks training that we’re offering.

Thanks for support

These are a few of the things we get involved with on a daily basis. The common thread with all of this work is — you! Because of your generous support, we get to work with really great people from across the diocese, trying to make their parish a little bit better, every day.

If you haven’t given to the ACA yet, please consider doing so. Thank you, thank you, thank you, for your continued support of the ACA and through it the Office of Planning.

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