The Southern Burlington Cluster Study continued September 24 at Our Lady Queen of Peace church hall, Hainesport, when Parish Core Teams from each of the five parishes in the cluster joined the pastors and parish representatives who form the Study Group, and were provided with an opportunity to discuss, and offer feedback on, the preliminary recommendations drafted by the Study Group in August. Core Teams are groups of 10-12 parishioners for each parish that have met regularly with their parish’s Study Group members to be kept abreast of the study process.
Key issues highlighted in the recommendations include plans to increase collaboration in the region in areas such as youth ministry and adult faith formation, hospital and homebound visitation and a variety of parish ministries, and through an equitable distribution of deacons. In addition, suggestions were made for an interparochial deanery council. Initiatives for addressing the overcrowding at Mass for parishes that are at or beyond capacity for their facilities, such as Our Lady Queen of Peace, Hainesport, and Our Lady of Good Counsel, Moorestown, explored the feasibility of multiple new facilities.
Preliminary recommendations for parish restructuring included scenarios which could include twinning or merging of parishes as a response to the future possibility of having only three or four pastors for the five parishes participating in the study.
During the meeting, representatives from both groups reached consensus on a number of discussion points, including the need for expansion in several parish communities, while the dialogue also raised concerns that twinning, which results in one pastor overseeing two distinct communities, as opposed to merger, which results in one new parish community, might lead to priest burnout. There was also agreement on the need to preserve the integrity of the Hispanic community in any restructuring or expansion recommendation, ensuring not only the placement of a bi-lingual pastor or associate pastor, but the integration of culture and tradition as well. Finally, the Study Group feels that an interparochial advisory committee should be formed to help develop ongoing pastoral plans for the area.
The Southern Burlington Study Process has now moved into its next phase in which the study representatives will bring the preliminary recommendations to their respective parish communities in Town Hall Meetings. The meetings are meant to provide parishioners an opportunity to consider the recommendations, offer their own input, and ask questions.
Feedback from the Town Hall Meetings will be considered by the Parish Study Group at its next meeting, Oct. 22, at which time members will craft the final recommendations for restructuring and expansion. These recommendations will be presented to Bishop John M. Smith in December.
Town Hall Meetings
Sacred Heart Parish, Mount Holly, has scheduled a meeting for Oct. 6 at 7 pm. To prepare, preliminary recommendations will be published in the bulletin and Father John Czahur will speak at all Masses to bring folks up to date. Parishioners are encouraged to attend the meeting to offer their feedback and to answer questions. There will also be an opportunity to present questions through e-mail or phone calls.
Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, Moorestown, will hold its Town Hall Meeting Oct. 15 at 7 pm in the church.
St John Neumann Parish, Mount Laurel, will conduct its Town Hall Meeting on Sat-Sun, Oct. 17-18. Flyers detailing the preliminary recommendations will be distributed next week so they may be read by the people in advance of the meetings to provide an opportunity to prepare questions. Meetings will be held around Masses, with a short presentation followed by open questions.
No other Town Hall Meetings have been scheduled as of the time of this post.