By Fr. Zbig Zomerfeld and Fr. Brian Cokonougher
Bulletin Article December 9, 2012
This the first in a series of articles to be published in the bulletins of both Holy Trinity Parish and St. Mary Parish concerning the Together in Faith, Phase II planning process developed by our parishes and approved by the Blue Water Vicariate: “In early 2012, St. Mary and Holy Trinity are to move forward as cluster partners and develop a cluster plan to be submitted to the Regional Moderator no later than June 30, 2012. The cluster plan should be implemented when a current pastor is no longer available, if a replacement is not available to be assigned, or when either parish begins to experience a net operating deficit. Plans should commence with models for initial collaboration and include contingency plans for programming, outreach and administration, for clustering/merging the parishes, and/or closing buildings and planning for the sale of property. This may result in short term, temporary administrators assigned, or a more permanent solution. In addition, Holy Trinity parish is to evaluate the potential elimination of one of its sites and submit a plan by December 31, 2012.”*
In the Together in Faith, Phase Two Pastoral Plan of the Archdiocese of Detroit St. Mary Parish and Holy Trinity Parish are designated as “cluster partners”. What is a cluster partnership? According to the Archdiocese of Detroit: “Two or more parishes which would cluster when the need becomes evident – for example, upon the reassignment, retirement or death of a pastor; or, when a parish runs an operating deficit”*
While it is the hope of both St. Mary Parish and Holy Trinity Parish that when either of us is reassigned to another parish that we would be replaced by another priest, the possibility exists that there may not be a priest available to be assigned to St. Mary or Holy Trinity. In that event, the remaining pastor would assume pastoral responsibility of the neighboring parish. Further, St. Mary and Holy Trinity would become a permanent cluster. What is a cluster? Again, according to the Archdiocese of Detroit: “A cluster refers to two or more parishes that share a single pastor and oftentimes a single set of administrative resources and personnel (bookkeeper, grounds keeper, religious education teachers, etc.). Also used as a verb, e.g. “St. Casimer and St. Agnes will make plans to cluster in 2014.” Parishes that are “clustered” have independent finances”.*
In short, we need to have a plan in place now in the event that either of our parishes experiences a pastoral vacancy. This plan should take into account both an emergency vacancy as well as a permanent vacancy. So far we have:
Developed an Emergency Mass Schedule in the event one of us gets seriously ill and cannot cover our liturgy schedule.
Identified a list of programs that our parishes are already doing together.
Begun holding combined staff meetings and combined Parish Pastoral Council meetings to complete the cluster plan.
In the next three weeks we will explain the emergency mass schedule, let you know what we are already doing together, and update you on the progress of our combined meetings.
Pastor, St. Mary Parish Pastor, Holy Trinity Parish
*( http://www.aod.org/parishes/planning-and-restructuring/pastoral-plan/ )