In 2019, under the direction of Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R., Archbishop of Newark, the Archdiocese launched Forward in Faith Together: Our Road Ahead. This pastoral vision charts a positive path forward for the Archdiocese and its ministries.

One of the vision’s six pillars, “Parish Pastoral Planning,” challenges parishes to develop a strategic pastoral plan for the future of their ministries. While many parish councils and parishioners are enthusiastic about this process, it is good to have support. It’s easy to ask a parish to develop a plan, but the actual development of a comprehensive pastoral plan is neither easy, nor quick.

To assist with this process, Archdiocesan staff have developed a comprehensive pastoral planning guide, which acts as a complement and information resource to accompany the pastoral vision. This guide, which is now in its final draft form and will be distributed to all parishes by mid-March, is divided into four components:

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  1. Overview — A thorough outline of the pastoral vision and why it’s important, and how the planning resource is meant to be used.
  2. The Six Pillars — An overview of the Six Pillars of the pastoral vision, and their role in shaping the future of the Archdiocese and the Church. Each section provides questions to assist parishes in better understanding how they carry out the mission of Christ in their communities, and what plans they will make to continue these ministries effectively.
  3. Creating Your Pastoral (Strategic) Plan — A step-by-step guide to help pastoral planners solicit parishioner input, share ideas, develop goals, and create an actionable pastoral plan.
  4. Appendix — Additional resources, including a sample meeting agenda and sample prayers to stimulate thoughtful reflection and participation in planning meetings. 

The planning guide calls upon each parish to consider critical questions about its ministry, mission, and goals, and is structured much like a workbook — with sections for planners to map out, in writing, their specific objectives, action steps, and responsible point-persons. Parishes will not necessarily focus on all six pillars at once, but key leaders are encouraged to focus on core areas within their parish that require the most attention. Further areas can be covered within a two to three-year period.

“We understand that an ambitious, far-reaching pastoral vision can be overwhelming — and that some pastors and laity may be struggling with how to make Forward in Faith Together a driving force within daily parish life,” said Sister Donna L. Ciangio, O.P., Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Newark. “This planning guide is intended to make the pastoral vision real and tangible for pastors, staffs, parish and finance planning councils, and key lay leaders, giving them the tools and resources necessary to succeed. Upcoming workshops will provide further information and training on how to use this resource.”

This is one of many ongoing efforts and initiatives in progress to support the vision of Forward in Faith Together: Our Road Ahead. To learn more, visit forward.rcan.org.