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There is nothing like Family

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As the pastoral planning initiative, Beacons of Light, moves forward, Catholic Telegraph writers are meeting with its leaders, including Father Jan Schmidt, to bring you the most up-to-date and accurate information and communication on what is happening, how decisions will be made and to provide clear descriptions of what to expect. This article series on Beacons of Light will appear in every issue of The Catholic Telegraph. Additionally, please visit catholicaoc.org/beacons to sign up for the weekly Beacons Update newsletter.

Is my parish going to close?

What is going to happen to my kids’ school?

Will I have to change where and when I go to Mass? What is going to happen next?

These are some of the first questions that might come to mind when you hear about Beacons of Light. The pastoral planning process of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati is underway, and as more Catholics become aware of the initiative, there will be an understandable amount of uncertainty in the hearts and minds of parishioners.

For many Catholics, their parish is like a second home. Some people have belonged to the same parish for decades. They attended school there, got married there, saw their kids baptized and receive the sacraments

there. They’ve made friends, volunteered, donated to building projects and worshiped in this same space for years. Is all that going to end?

First and foremost, Beacons of Light is not about closing parishes. It is about making parishes stronger. Through the process of collecting data, listening to pastors and lay faithful, consulting with experts and receiving feedback, parishes will be formed into 50 to 60 groups called “Families of Parishes.”

Each Family of Parishes will typically consist of three to six parishes – although some will have more and others less. Each of the parishes in a “Family” will join the grouping with their own buildings, budgets, sacramental schedules, staffs and resources of a typical parish. Decisions about life in the Family of Parishes will be made by the pastor and parish leaders within the basic guidelines in place for the entire archdiocese.

The goal is for these parishes to join together as one faith community, stronger than ever before. By coming together, this new faith community will have the resources needed to focus more on mission than on maintenance, thereby helping people grow closer to Jesus and radiate Christ throughout the cities, towns, suburbs and rural communities of the 19 counties in Western and Southwestern Ohio.

Will things change? Absolutely. But are you going to show up at Mass one Sunday to find the building locked and an eviction notice nailed to the front door? Not at all.

The pastor and parish leaders in each Family of Parishes will collaborate and embark on their own process of assessing the resources and needs for their faith family. No one in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati can wholly predict what kinds of changes each Family of Parishes will enact. Could they close buildings? Yes. Could they consolidate schools? Yes. Could they change Mass times? Yes. But those decisions will not be made centrally, they will not be made lightly, and they will not be made quickly. Those decisions will be in the hands of the priests, parish councils, parish staff and other leaders within each Family of Parishes.

Ultimately, the goal is for each Family of Parishes to come together as one, true faith community. That goal might sound scary. Change – even good change – is always a little bit scary. Will the process be easy? Probably not. Will every parishioner be happy with every decision their pastor or parish leaders make?

That’s certainly not the case now, and it likely won’t be in the future.

Can Archbishop Schnurr or any of his staff members tell you today if your parish will close, or your school will be consolidated, or your Mass times or locations will change? No, because they don’t know, and they won’t be the ones making those decisions.

You can be a part of the Beacons of Light process in your own parish.

By signing up for the free monthly Beacons Update at catholicaoc.org/beacons, you can stay in the know throughout every step of Beacons of Light. By using Beacons Update to ask questions and give feedback, you can help influence how this initiative develops. By presenting yourself as a positive and proactive supporter to your pastor, you can get involved as the process unfolds in your parish. And, through prayer, you can place your trust (and your worries) in Jesus, who tells us in Matthew 6:34a, “Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.”

This article appeared in the August 2021 edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.

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