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Frequently Asked Questions

This page addresses many of the questions the faithful have about Families of Parishes: What are they? Why are we creating them in the Archdiocese of Detroit? Who will lead them? And what does this change mean for the life of our local Church? If you have questions that are not addressed here, please feel free to contact us.

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KEY QUESTIONS

  • What are Families of Parishes and why are we creating them in the Archdiocese of Detroit?

    Over the next two years, all parishes of the Archdiocese of Detroit will join other parishes in new groupings called “Families of Parishes.” Families of Parishes are groups of parishes, generally three to six, sharing resources to advance the mission, including having multiple priests and deacons serving the Family of Parishes. This new model will allow the priests, deacons, religious and lay staff associated with each parish to better share their gifts and talents with the whole Family of Parishes.

    Our shift to Families of Parishes is a response to Synod 16, which called for a complete renewal of structures of our parishes to make them radically mission-oriented. Our goal is to make our parishes places where individuals and families can encounter Jesus anew, grow as disciples, and be equipped to be witnesses the Risen Christ.
    The current health and economic crises have accelerated the process of renewing the way our parishes are organized and structured. In addition to the already problematic priest shortage, we now have fewer material resources to keep our mission active. Archbishop Vigneron, in consultation with clergy and lay advisors, has determined that now is the time to act.

    Our mission hasn’t changed, but how we approach that mission must shift in response to our circumstances. We must move forward with greater collaboration and better stewardship of our resources. With this shift, we take inspiration from the early Church. From the beginning, Christ knew the mission he gave his disciples would be difficult and that they would face many challenges, so he sent them to preach the Gospel two-by-two (Mk 6:6-7 and Luke 10:1). Like us, the early disciples knew what was asked of them but not necessarily how to accomplish it or what the end result would be. St. Paul himself was shipwrecked three times (2 Cor 11:25) but wherever he ended, he remained committed to the same mission with which we are entrusted today. Because of St. Paul’s commitment and the commitment of the early apostles, the Gospel was heard across the world.

    Like the disciples, we have been asked to unite and go on mission together, enhancing each other’s strengths and working collaboratively to Unleash the Gospel around us. And while the impact of the pandemic may feel like a shipwreck – like St. Paul, this is not what we planned or wanted – we know that God wants us to continue his mission with the same zeal and dedication of the early apostles. He will be with us every step of the way.

  • Where can I view the list of Families of Parishes?

    The complete list of Families of Parishes, released December 9, 2020, is available here.

  • When will Families of Parishes begin operating as such?

    There will be two waves of parishes beginning to operate within their new Families of Parishes. The first wave will begin preparation in January of 2021 and will launch in July of 2021. The second wave will begin preparation in January of 2022 and will launch in July of 2022. These waves were announced at Advent of 2020, alongside the publication of the list of Families. This timeline was designed to effectively address our needs while allowing for over a year of collaborative discernment before our first Families of Parishes officially come together.

  • Who will lead each Family of Parishes?

    Beginning at Pentecost, a group of priests and Curia leaders on the Governance Leadership Team has been advising Archbishop Vigneron on the new governance and leadership structure for all the Families of Parishes in the Archdiocese. This time of discernment has included studying models other dioceses have used, and there have been consultations with these dioceses about what has worked and what hasn’t worked. The goal was to establish a new structure that allows for multiple priests to serve the Family of Parishes with their unique talents and experiences, creating a leadership and governance structure that maximizes all our resources for mission.

    After carefully considering the work and recommendation of the Governance Leadership Team, Archbishop Vigneron has endorsed two models of governance for our Families of Parishes: the One-Pastor Model and the In Solidum model.

    The One-Pastor Model, wherein one priest serves as pastor of the Family and others serve as associates, stands out as the best model for us to be on mission. It is efficient and allows us the greatest flexibility in deploying our people – clergy and laity – to meet the evolving needs of the Family. While we anticipate all Families will adopt this framework over time, they are not required to do so right away. It will be an option for those Families who wish to pursue it, but it is important to offer an alternative for Families who discern another path is the immediate best “fit” for them.

    That need for an alternative brought forth much discussion about the In Solidum model, which is not new to the universal Church but is new to most everyone in our country. With this model, parish pastors will serve as Family-Pastors to all parishes within their Family, often with the assistance of Family-Parochial Vicars and Family-Deacons. One Family-Pastor among them is appointed Moderator, a role that is defined by Church law as a servant-leader to his parishes and brother priests. In other words, the chosen Moderator will not be permitted to indiscriminately impose his will on the team; rather, he will be there “to serve and not to be served” (Mk 10:45) and to help his team form a common mind for mission.

    Both models work well for the missionary transformation of our parishes. They will renew us in our identity as leaders in the mission and will facilitate the fraternal cooperation among clergy that our mission requires. Importantly, both models also provide for a smooth organizational transformation, so that we can move expeditiously back to our missionary work with strategic planning.

    We know that roles will change for many priests. Based on conversations with other dioceses that have adopted similar models, we are confident that the structures adopted for Families of Parishes will make the best use of our priests’ talents and charisms, allowing them to spend more time focusing on the very important work for which they were ordained.

  • How are parishes preparing for the transition to a Family of Parishes?

    Each wave will have a six-month preparation phase and an extended implementation phase that will last several months. Because we are a very large Archdiocese, we are planning two “waves” of transitions to Families of Parishes, one in 2021 and the other in 2022. The Preparation and Implementation phases will involve training and dialogue for priests and laity focused on what is changing and how to restructure operations to support the necessary changes. During the preparation and implementation phases, each Family of Parishes will discuss the practical ways in which the clergy, staff and parishes will interact within the Family, as well as finalize the new leadership structure, including items such as leadership teams, key staff mission, and operations staff positions. Lastly, during these phases, each Family of Parishes will explore and establish any necessary changes to Mass schedules, confession schedules, etc. It will be up to each Parish Family to work together, with assistance from the Archdiocese, to make decisions in the best interest of the parishes in the Family.

    This process will be rooted in prayer, will be respectful of building and maintaining relationships, and will be marked by quick and honest responses to questions and concerns that are raised.

GENERAL QUESTIONS

  • When were Families of Parishes first announced?

    Archbishop Vigneron announced to the faithful this next step on our missionary journey on Pentecost 2020, the three-year anniversary of the release of the pastoral letter, Unleash the Gospel.

    • A letter to the faithful from Archbishop Vigneron
    • A set of frequently asked questions, tailored for the faithful
    • A new website dedicated to Families of Parishes, featuring a video greeting from Archbishop Vigneron and a narration of our missionary journey.

    In addition to the above, Archbishop Vigneron offered further thoughts about Families of Parishes as part of his homily during the 9 a.m. Pentecost Sunday Mass live-streamed from the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

  • Does this mean our mission to unleash the Gospel has changed?

    Not at all. Through Synod 16, we discerned that God was calling us to transform our archdiocese into a band of joyful missionary disciples, sent on mission to share the Good News of Jesus Christ in southeast Michigan. God continues to send us on this mission to bring Christ to this place and at this time. Those around us are still thirsting for the Gospel, the words of eternal life. The new model of Family of Parishes will allow us to better serve this mission.

    In fact, it is during times of crisis — when people are in need and face uncertainty — that they are more open to hearing the Good News. We must seize the opportunity to bring the message of the Gospel to all during these times.

  • What other dioceses have made similar changes to Families of Parishes?

    The Archdiocese of Detroit has consulted with and learned from a handful of dioceses that have previously addressed the way their parishes are structured in order to better align their resources and advance their mission. These dioceses vary from smaller communities to large archdioceses and have chosen models which range from familiar merging/clustering models to initiatives closer to the collaborative Families we are pursuing here. In particular, the parishes in Diocese of London, Ontario have united in Family groups that resemble what we envision for our archdiocese. The implementation of their plan has differed in order to fit the needs of their smaller, mainly rural communities. This is why it was critical for the Archdiocese of Detroit to embrace an initial period of collaborative discernment so that we could develop this concept into a model that serves the best interests of everyone in our own communities. Other dioceses we have benchmarked include Chicago, Halifax-Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Cleveland.

  • How will this affect the lives of parishioners?

    Parishioners will become part of a larger faith family, working together and leveraging resources in pursuit of our mission to unleash the Gospel. They will still be part of their own parish communities unless their own discernment suggests otherwise. They will worship alongside and work with other members of their new Family. They will be ministered to by multiple priests from all parishes in the Family and in many cases access to the Sacraments will be increased. They will share best practices and benefit from competent and improved lay leadership of the various ministries managed through the Family structure.

  • How will this affect the lives of priests?

    A number of priests will share the work of caring for each Family of Parishes. These priests will be able to leverage their charisms and strengths in the work that they do and will find themselves supported by a talented and trained lay staff and, in many cases, one or more deacons. Those priests serving as pastors of Families of Parishes will be responsible for administration. All priests, regardless of their role within the Family of Parishes, will have more time to engage in the work of ministering to the people of God.

    While all the priests assigned to a Family of Parishes are welcome to live a communal life, this is not a requirement.

    As members of Families of Parishes, at-risk and aging priests will be able to continue in ministry in ways that protect their health while still making valuable contributions to the parishes. They will no longer shoulder the burden of choosing between retirement or handling all aspects of running their parish communities.

  • How will this affect parish staffs?

    As parishes come together to form Families of Parishes, they will begin to discuss the practical ways in which the clergy and staff will interact within the Family, as well as finalize the new leadership structure, including items such as leadership teams, key staff mission, and operations staff positions. During this process, some parishes may lose some staff members (e.g., if a Family of Parishes opts to share one bookkeeper instead of having each parish maintain its own). At the same time, some Families will be able to add positions that better serve the mission going forward. In addition, we expect that natural attrition (e.g. through retirements and normal staff turnover) over the next few years may assist the parishes’ efforts to further consolidate their staffs.

    These and other staffing decisions will be left to the discernment of each Family of Parishes, led by parish leadership and with assistance, as needed, from the Archdiocese of Detroit Curia. All decisions will be guided by a complete focus on mission and the best interest of the entire Family of Parishes. This process will be rooted in prayer, will be respectful of building and maintaining relationships, and will be marked by quick and honest responses to questions and concerns that are raised.

PARISH GROUPINGS QUESTIONS

  • How were Families of Parishes groupings chosen?

    During the discernment period from Pentecost to Advent of 2020, a preliminary list of Parish Families was developed through consultation with the auxiliary bishops, the assignment board, members of the presbyteral council, local vicars, and pastors. This list was presented to Archbishop Vigneron for his consideration and approval before being released to the faithful on Wednesday, December 9, 2020.
    The primary criteria for consideration were that Families should be 3-6 parishes and that all of the parishes within the Family ideally should share a border with at least one other Family member. Vicars and priests were allowed to consider Families that extended beyond current vicariate or regional boundaries.

    More generally, clergy were urged to consider what makes the most sense for the future of the Archdiocese when there will be fewer priests, people, and resources in many parts of the Archdiocese of Detroit.

  • Were the Families of Parishes groupings determined by existing vicariate and regional boundaries?

    Not necessarily. It is evident from the list of Families that the groups did not need to adhere to vicariate or regional lines; rather, they were formed with attention given to the best interest of each community. It must be noted that there was priority placed on ensuring parishes within each Family were geographically contiguous, meaning they bordered at least one other parish in the Family. We did not want to create “islands” of parishes grouped with distant parishes.

  • Does this mean my parish may close, merge, or cluster? Or that a worship site may close?

    A Family of Parishes is not the same as a cluster or merged parish. Rather, it is a group of individual parishes led by an intentionally-formed team to address and focus on mission. In our current model for merged or clustered parishes, one or two priests are responsible for multiple communities and sites. Experience in our diocese and other dioceses has shown that this model is very hard on the priests and ultimately leaves the parishioners feeling as if they do not have the support that they want and need from clergy. The Families of Parishes structure, on the other hand, includes multiple priests and deacons, with the support of lay pastoral ministers and staff, serving a Family of Parishes under one leadership structure. This allows for greater collaboration and alignment to mission, better care of the faithful, and maximizing the use of our resources.

    As each Family discerns how to best align resources, they may decide to retain their separate identities and worship spaces. Others, after a careful and honest review of existing resources, may opt to close worship spaces or merge with partnering parishes. These decisions will be left to the discernment of that Family, with assistance from the Archdiocese of Detroit, guided by a complete focus on mission and the best interest of the entire community.

    Click here to learn more about how Families of Parishes differ from clusters

  • How will Families of Parishes affect poorer parishes? Will those less affluent parishes be forced or encouraged to close?

    There is no pre-existing plan to force, encourage, or guide parishes with fewer resources to close.

    As each Family discerns how to best align resources, they may decide to retain their separate identities and worship spaces. Others, after a careful and honest review of existing resources, may opt to close worship spaces or merge with partnering parishes. These decisions will be left to the discernment of that Family, with assistance from the Archdiocese of Detroit, guided by a complete focus on mission and the best interest of the entire community.

  • Is a Family of Parishes able to “reorganize” if, after a few years, it becomes apparent that its current configuration isn’t in the best interest of all the parish communities in the Family?

    Yes, if such reorganization makes sense and follows the law of the Church. However, the hope is that once a Family is established, they will begin the process of mission-centered planning, so reorganizing would be a last resort if all other measures fail.

PARISH FUNCTION QUESTIONS

  • What are the three ministry areas within a Family of Parishes?

    Governance and Leadership primarily covers the clergy of a Family and those major Councils and Teams which support the clergy in their mission. After carefully considering the work and recommendation of those focused on developing this area, Archbishop Vigneron has endorsed two models of governance for our Families of Parishes: the One-Pastor Model and the In Solidum model. (See “Who will lead our Family of Parishes?” in the “Key Questions” section.)

    Mission Direct primarily covers those ministries which work directly with the faithful in achieving the mission.

    Mission Support primarily covers those ministries which support the Family through functions that do not work directly with the faithful.

  • How will each Family choose which governance/leadership model (One Pastor or Moderator) to adopt? What if there’s no consensus, or there's a tie vote?

    Rather than relying solely on vote tallies, the clergy within each Family will be encouraged to pray and listen to the Holy Spirt to arrive at consensus. If no consensus is reached, Archbishop Vigneron will make a final decision, in consultation with the regional bishop and Curia staff.

  • What consultative bodies will be formed to support the Pastor/Moderator of a Family?

    A Family Pastoral Council (FPC) is recommended for all Families, consisting of two parishioners from each parish within the Family as well as all priests of the Family. The purpose of the FPC is to provide input to the One Pastor or Moderator regarding the overall mission and direction of the Family. While individual parish pastoral councils for each parish will no longer be required, parishes are free to maintain such bodies if it serves their mission.

    The Family Leadership Team (FLT) will consist of approximately 4-6 members acting as a consultative group to the One Pastor or Moderator, especially regarding major decisions of the Family. Members of the FLT may include lay ecclesial ministers, lay leaders, deacons, or priests, but the FLT should not be dominated by members of the clergy.

    Families are free to establish other consultative groups as needed in order to ensure sufficient and timely input from parish members regarding the work of the parish.

  • What are “Mission Direct” ministries and how will they be structured?

    Mission Direct ministries primarily work directly with the faithful in achieving the mission, and are designed to firmly root parish pastoral ministry in Synod 16 and the Unleash the Gospel pastoral letter. To accomplish this goal, we have identified five ministry areas that reflect a vibrant and evangelizing parish. These are:

    1. Discipleship Formation, overseeing all aspects of disciple formation in the Family, with emphasis on encounter, grow, and witness. The Director of Discipleship Formation identifies, recruits, and forms catechists; assists the school faculty in the preparation of creative, spirit-filled liturgies and sacramental experiences; and other related tasks.

    2. Engagement, assisting parishioners by equipping them for the service of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Director of Engagement supervises those working in ministry placement, evangelization, communications, RCIA, hospitality, and ecumenical ministries.

    3. Evangelical Charity, ensuring a full response to Catholic social teaching through charity in areas of human need, both within the parish and beyond. The Director of Christian Service supervises those working in human services; community outreach; visitation of the sick and homebound; Stephen Ministry; and funeral luncheon ministries.

    4. Family Ministries, assisting families living as domestic churches in their homes. The Director of Family Ministry supervises those working with infant baptism; marriage preparation, and family support group ministries.

    5. Worship, facilitating the worship life of the community by coordinating and providing quality prayer and liturgical experiences. The Director of Worship supervises those working in liturgy; parish music; prayer groups; and wake service ministries.

  • What are “Mission Support” ministries and how will they be structured?

    Mission Support ministries primarily support the Family through functions that do not work directly with the faithful, and are designed to give Pastors, Moderators, and other clergy more time for missionary work. The Mission Support team encompasses, but is not limited to: Finance, Accounting, Human Resources, Information Technology, and Facility Maintenance.

    Family Mission Support Teams will be led by Family Mission Support Directors and usually will be comprised of existing personnel from each of the parishes. A Family Mission Support Director serves as the single point of contact for the One Pastor or Moderator, and the Mission Support Team serves its entire Family.

PARISH FINANCES

  • How will parish finances be handled within a Family of Parishes?

    Families of Parishes will have significant common ministries and outreach that will necessitate the sharing of resources. The Pastors and Moderators have the responsibility to ensure that all parishes in each Family share in these resources and costs on an equitable basis. This will require structures enabling transparency of finances and good communication about administrative matters among the parishes in each Family.

    Each parish within a Family will remain solely responsible for its own financial viability. This includes establishing appropriate parish budgets, coordinating parish fundraising, and controlling parish costs. Accordingly, each parish will be required to have its own Parish Financial Council comprised of parishioners, as is true today.

    New to the Family of Parishes structure is the need for a Family Finance Team to help the One Pastor or Moderator in matters which span the Families. A Family’s Finance Team is chaired by the One Pastor or Moderator and is comprised of the Family Mission Support Director and two representatives from each parish in the Family. It is recommended that the representatives from each parish also be members of their respective Parish Finance Councils.

  • How will a Moderator/One Pastor handle the finances of multiple parishes without creating more meetings and burden?

    While each parish in a Family of Parishes will remain separate and distinct, it is our hope that the parish councils and finance councils within a Family will work together as a team to advise their Moderator or One Pastor. For example, this could result in Family finance council meetings being held consecutively at one location, with a common council membership, to ease the burden on Moderator or One Pastor. This would look and feel like one meeting during which each parish’s finances are addressed.

CLERGY LIFE QUESTIONS

  • How will moving to Families of Parishes mitigate the priest shortage?

    The Families of Parishes model addresses the priest shortage by providing a consolidated lay staff and better support to the priests working together. The traditional cluster model is a significant burden on priests, who find themselves managing two or three pastoral councils, finance councils, religious education programs, et cetera – one for each parish in the cluster – in addition to his regular sacramental duties. Feedback from priests is that this model is not life-giving nor is it sustainable.

    Archbishop Vigneron sees Families of Parishes as a way to move forward. In conversation with other dioceses that have implemented this model, we have found priests are able to engage more in the missionary and evangelization efforts of their ministry.

  • One reason for Families of Parishes is to address the priest shortage. Is there also a plan to recruit new vocations to the priesthood?

    Father Craig Giera, new director of the Office of Priestly Vocations, is working assiduously on enhancing the work of promoting vocations to the priesthood. Archbishop Vigneron is confident that God, in his goodness, is still calling and inviting the holy priests we need to lead this missionary diocese. Thus, we do not have a vocations shortage; we have an audition/hearing shortage. Our collective efforts to remedy this by helping men hear and respond to their vocations will coincide with and complement our efforts to ease the burden of having fewer priests with our transition to Families of Parishes.

  • Is there an “official” role for senior (retired) clergy in the Families of Parishes?

    The role of senior priests will depend upon what they are interested in doing and what they feel they can contribute, combined with what Family leadership teams discern is needed for their communities. Currently, many of our senior priests have regular commitments to one parish, which with this transition may become a commitment to a Family of Parishes.

CATHOLIC SCHOOLS

  • How will the new structure of families of parishes affect our Catholic Schools?

    The Catholic Schools Council and the Department of Catholic Schools have been working in parallel to review the governance and structure of our Catholic Schools. The goal remains the same as it was before the pandemic: to better align resources to form disciples for Christ and to ensure that every Catholic family is able to give their children an excellent Catholic education.

  • Will it be expected that every parish support its Family’s – or its area’s – parochial school(s)?

    Synod 16 was very clear that Catholic education is the responsibility of the entire Archdiocese. While the details of how Families of Parishes will support this directive have yet to be determined, it is probable that, should one member of a Family of Parishes sponsor a school, the other members should be supportive of that apostolate. Specific details about how this will work are under consideration by those leading our transition to Families of Parishes and the Department of Catholic Schools, in consultation with the Department of Finance, Catholic Schools Council, and a cross-section of pastors. Our intent is to have these options reviewed by archdiocesan consultative bodies and other stakeholders, so that they may be fully vetted and shared with the larger presbyterate in early 2021.

OTHER QUESTIONS

  • How will this affect the parish Missionary Strategic Plan and our Sent on Mission efforts?

    When we announced Sent on Mission, the next phase of our movement, one year ago in Pentecost of 2019, the plan called for each parish to write a Missionary Strategic Plan (MSP) to align all of its resources and activity to our shared mission to unleash the Gospel. We now must alter our path to achieve this goal in response to our circumstances. As our parishes come together to form Families of Parishes, each Family will write its own Family Missionary Strategic Plan, benefiting from its enhanced pool of resources, talents, and ideas. Just as the disciples set out two-by-two and relied upon each other to effectively spread the Good News, so will we assist each other in this work of a generation to unleash the Gospel in our time.