There is a quote, popularly attributed to Henry Kissinger, that states: “If you don’t know where you are going, every road will get you nowhere.”

This powerful statement speaks to the importance of having a plan and vision for the future. Too often, people and organizations drift with no end to their journey in mind, and then wonder why are aren’t getting anywhere.

After nearly three years of collaborative discussions, a new vision for the Archdiocese of Newark was created entitled, “Forward in Faith Together: Our Road Ahead.” It’s a positive path forward built around six tenets.

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Like the pillars of a cathedral, each pillar of this pastoral vision is vital — none can stand without the others. One of these is “Archdiocesan Pastoral Planning.” This column explains why this pillar is so critical.

What is a pastoral plan, exactly? Quite simply, it is a formal, adopted plan that enables the Archdiocese and individual parishes to improve engagement with parishioners, to be more responsive to the faithful, and ultimately to create stronger parishes. A pastoral planning resource workbook will soon be available to help parishes set goals.

In developing “Forward in Faith Together,” an Archdiocesan Pastoral Council was established, along with individual Parish Pastoral Councils, and Councils of Priests and Deans to advise the Archbishop of Newark, Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R.

A comprehensive training program to help our Church grow, heal, and thrive was also launched. The Healing Our Church program was developed by RENEW International, which has a more than 40-year record of revitalizing parish life in 150+ dioceses in the United States and beyond. The organization has touched the lives of more than 25 million people through its ministry services.

As a next step, the Archdiocesan and Parish Pastoral councils are identifying areas of parish life in need of pastoral attention and support. Each parish is unique, and this process is neither easy, nor something that can be accomplished overnight. Investing in the development and training of these councils is a priority.

There are more than 1.3 million members of the faithful within the Newark Archdiocese. There is a diverse mix of skills and capabilities to be celebrated. Please speak to your pastor or parish administrator about how your distinct talents can play a role in shaping the future through the pastoral planning process.

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