Diocesan vision process nearing completion

The Vision team hard at work in this September meeting at the Catholic Center. (Joe Cory/Key photo)

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

KANSAS CITY — Eleven Catholics (the Visioning Team introduced in the July 13 issue) have been meeting since mid-August to review, reflect on and discuss the desires and suggestions for the future of the diocese heard during 10 listening sessions over the summer and received by email or hand-written notes. Their purpose: to craft a vision statement for the next five years and beyond.

Under the direction of Barbara Eckert, Senior Consultant and Visioning Process Facilitator of the Catholic Leadership Institute, the team, comprised of clergy, pastoral ministers and parishioners from across the diocese and Bishop James V. Johnston Jr., have taken the responses, “the desires of the people in the diocese” and, through prayer and discourse, found a path toward their goal.

Eckert told The Key in a telephone interview from Tacoma, Wash., that the team had the recorded responses from the listening sessions and from the more than 1,200 people who responded in writing. It hasn’t been smooth and easy to reach the place where the process now stands. “It’s been challenging because the team’s work is to respond to God and to uncover what God wants for the faithful people of the diocese.”

Diocesan Director of the Office of Domestic Church and Discipleship Bernardino Durando, concurred, “I think that one of the most difficult things about this process is the effort required for discernment. We begin by looking at the results from the Listening Session input and then we have also considered a lot of demographic information about trends and the state of our diocese. It is really a lot of information. It would be easier if we just came up with good ideas to address the needs that rise to the surface and put it in a document. However, this process has been more challenging because we are prayerfully considering the results and testing the ideas as we go.  Our consultant, Barbara, has a number of tried and true ways to help us arrive not just at consensus, but at something more than mere consensus that we hope will be truly inspired by the Holy Spirit.”

Eckert said the team is reaching conclusions and beginning to reason how to go forward on the statement.

“We have to pay attention to the real situations in the diocese,” Eckert added, “we have to always try to listen deeper and deeper to what the Holy Spirit is saying. The bishop is the voice of that.”

During July, prayer cards for the success of the visioning process were distributed around the diocese. Durando said, “I have been really encouraged to hear from pastors and people from lots of different parishes that they have responded to the invitation to pray by using the prayer cards. They are still being distributed and some parishes have even been saying the prayer after every weekend Mass. I have a sense that the prayers of so many people are really making a difference in our deliberations.  They have been some of the most Spirit-filled meetings I have ever participated in.  The prayer is also on the diocesan website in the section on the Visioning Process.”

The team has experienced moments of uncomfortable tension, but they are focused on the future of the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese and its people, and things are falling into place, Eckert said. “We must discern how can the Church be the heart of faith in Northwest Missouri and how do we accompany people both near and in the wider society? This vision is really meant for every person, ministry and parish apostolate in the diocese. And Bishop Johnston is bishop of everyone in the diocese.”

“We have been praying throughout the process”, Durando added, “and continue to ask the faithful of our diocese to pray for this effort. It really must be a work of the Holy Spirit for the vision and priorities to be what God wants for our future. That’s only possible with a sincere movement of prayer and seeking God’s will throughout the process. I think Bishop Johnston has led us to take the necessity for serious prayer among our team not only during our meetings, but also in the weeks between those meetings.”

Accompaniment is a way of evangelizing without proselytizing. “By our Baptism we are called upon to spread the good news,” Eckert explained. “We are called upon to answer the question: ‘Why are you a person of hope and joy?’ And through the visioning process we can see how to focus on people, how to clarify and increase confidence in the future of the diocese, and ask ‘What can I do to bring the light of Christ more brightly into the world?’ This is what discipleship really is.”

Durando said, “The members of our team come from a cross-section of our diocese and besides all of us being Catholics, there are many ways that we are not alike. Through this process we have grown closer together in one way that I think is very important. We want Jesus to be better known. We have grown in our collective desire to share the Gospel more effectively as individuals and to help other members of the Church do that as well. I think we have grown in awareness of how sharing the gospel requires a personal approach that meets people where they really are, not where we might want them to be.  It has been a beautiful fruit of this process.”

The visioning process is expected to conclude in December, Eckert said, and the vision statement released sometime early in the new year.

For more on the Visioning Process, visit kcsjcatholic.org, click on “One Heart, One Mind Visioning Process.”


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October 23, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph