August 22, 2018 OUT-2018-289
To Our Clergy, Hieromonks and Brothers, Religious Sisters, Seminarians
and Beloved Faithful
Declaration of the Vision
of Saint Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy:
The declaration of the vision (aspirations) of St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy is the tool of our diocesan community, with the help of which we seek to realize the call of the Risen Christ in the modern world: "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Mt.28:19-20). In this call, we can see what Jesus is expecting from the apostles and their followers, in other words, from us.
This great mission can be accomplished given the power of the Holy Spirit and our openness to God's Will. We sincerely wish that this vision, that is in accord with the program “Vibrant Parish - a Place to Encounter the Living Christ”, could inspire members of our Church and serve as a strategic "road map" for the fulfillment of Christ's commandment in short and long-term perspectives at the eparchial and parish levels of the church community.
Main Steps towards accomplishing the Vision:
- Year 2018 - the time of intense prayer, both personal and community (group).
- Conduct meetings of the faithful (assemblies) in all parishes of the Eparchy.
- Create Pastoral and Economic Councils in each parish of the Eparchy.
- Establish eparchial structures.
1. As the faithful of our church, we work on two levels - vertical and horizontal. The vertical level implies development of a deeper relationship with God. We devote more time to personal and community prayer in the parish and begin "wrestling" to "regain" the unique time of our lives for prayer. We always have time, we are living in it, and we use it for something. But how much time do we devote to prayer? There are 24 hours in a day, seven days in a week, which together makes it 168 hours. We are present in church on Sundays for an hour and a half, we pray daily 5 minutes in the mornings and evenings; this all adds up to about an hour. According to these rough calculations, the time spent for our prayer each week will amount to 3 hours of communication with God. This is about 2 percent of all the time we have received from our Lord that we dedicate to Him. However, we invest 98% of our life in various daily activities that one day ultimately will have to be given up. Therefore, it’s time we started devoting more time to prayer in order to recognize God’s will concerning us as people, as parish and as eparchy. Our Lord loves each one of us and His will is the best thing He has prepared out of His love for us. Let’s meet with the Lord in a prayer as He has answers to all our questions. There are no hopeless situations for God. The Lord knows what the best way is, and what is most important or beneficial for me and for the parish.
2. The horizontal level presupposes creating and developing an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect in our parishes. No matter how hard we try we will never be able to think and act in the same way. In the history of mankind and the Church, such attempts at unity have always had negative consequences. Of course, it is important to share the same goal, but we can all look at it from a different perspective and then choose to go our own way to reach it. Therefore, we must learn to respect everybody, regardless of their views or beliefs, even if we do not agree with them or even understand them. In spite of our differences in views and beliefs, we must learn to trust these persons. Only when we trust and respect each other, we will not fear being criticized when expressing our own opinion or viewpoint. With such mutual trust and respect prevailing in our parishes and eparchial structures we will be able to implement many of our projects. In order for this to happen, we should have a strong personal desire to be open and to invest our labor.
3. In 2018 each parish of the eparchy should organize a meeting-sobor(assembly) with all the parishioners. If necessary, a series of meetings can be done throughout the year in order to meet with all the parishioners. The goal of the meetings is to elect the members of the Pastoral Council and, consequently, to create an Economic Council. People are the main human capital and value of our parishes, especially those with some sort of expertise. They are the ones who will fill the vision, strategy, tactics, structures and means with meaning. Therefore, it is important:
- to have persons, or a team, capable of implementing the plan. But before that we have to figure out whether there are enough people in our parish capable of implementing the plan. At the planning stage it is necessary to clearly define the objectives and how to meet them, appoint the responsible persons and outline his/her tasks;
- to create appropriate structures, such as the Pastoral and Economic Council, which will oversee the implementation of the plan;
- C to budget the available funds for the work planned. When the faithful can clearly understand the vision of the parish and a strategy of its implementation, the Lord will provide the means.
4. When meeting with the whole parish and parish councils, it is important to evaluate the successful activities running in the parish and the prospective ones that can be developed in the future. As well as strengths, it is important to determine the existing weaknesses in our parish. We need to ask ourselves:
- Why does our parish exist, how do we see our parish now, and what is our vision of its future?
- What would happen if our parish did not exist?
- What are our priorities regarding things that need to be done in our parish, what strategies should we choose?
- What specific and tactical steps do we need to take?
- Apart from that, every parishioner should ask himself/herself the question: what is my personal mission/ responsibility in the parish?
- Can I do something more for the parish, the parishioners and the Lord?
Clearly, each parish will have different and specific questions. Moreover, thorough questions about the parish, its life and existence, prompt us to search for good, thorough answers. Therefore, at the meetings it is very important to give everyone a chance to speak out, to listen to everyone (the youngest and the oldest) and make collective (conciliar) decisions based on that. The decision-making process is to be led by the priest who surely should take into account the opinions and mutual decisions of the parishioners.
5. The priest must be the person able to lead the parishioners, inspired by the vision and by the Pastoral Council, to then develop a strategy for practical implementation of the vision. We should often ask ourselves - do we really want to implement all of it? No one else can accomplish the task for us, so it requires mutual effort on the part of the pastor and the parishioners. This process is a long one and therefore must be well-planned to achieve its goals. It is of utmost importance to share the same aspirations for achieving the goal, vision and understanding of what and how we want to do things. A parish community and each of its members must have a vision of what they want their parish to be or to become. It is the task of the church to help every parishioner understand who we are as a church community; the goals of our parish; the vision of our parish and its future; what we want to achieve as a church community.
6. Also, we must realize, that some members of the parish may leave the church community over time, due to work, migration processes and life circumstances. If a responsible person leaves, it will undoubtedly impact certain projects. Therefore, when designing projects, we should think of other people who can be involved in them and might be able to replace those who may leave.
7. At the meetings of the parish community or the Pastoral and Economic Councils, the responsible persons for implementing joint decisions and resolving issues regarding their financial support should be appointed. Individuals in charge of implementing decisions should submit a report to the Pastoral Council every three months, and one to the parish community once a year.
8. Each church community must work out its own vision that incorporates its personal strategy and plans. All the ministries and parish projects should be conducted in accordance with this vision: we have one strategy or another; we make some decisions because there is a consensus as to the vision of the parish. Therefore, it is important not to start work on what is not consistent with the vision of the parish. All of our parish decisions must follow this vision. The Eparchial Curia and the future Eparchial Council are the bodies that review the vision of each parish to see if it is consistent with the vision of the entire eparchy and vice versa. It should be noted, that the connection between parish and eparchial planning is very important. Following this, there should be close cooperation between the Pastoral Department of the Curia and the Pastoral Council of the Parish.
9. When planning, it is important to remember the long-term projects and allocate time for them, as urgent cases will be constantly taking up our time. Based on that, we should remember about keeping a balance between short-term and long-term solutions - to do what is a priority now and not to forget to look for resources or opportunities for the future projects.
10. Having a parish vision and goals, we should ask ourselves what and how we do things in order to fulfil the goals. We should realize where we are now as a parish community, where we want to go and what we need to do to get closer to the goal we set. We can display this as a diagram line from point A (what we have now) to point B (what we want to achieve). We should follow a certain direction as to what we do and where we are heading. Are we moving further in the right direction, are we moving with the same pace we have planned, are we going to reach the future we have predicted? There are always many directions that need to be changed. However, it is important to know exactly what we want to change and where we want to go, to achieve our goal. That's why we should be able to determine priorities - what we want to do and in what order we want to do all of it. We should be constantly asking ourselves the question: can we really do this? Do we have sufficient resources for this?
11. Ongoing communication about what is happening in the parish, what is changing and what needs to be addressed is crucial. It is necessary to look for different opportunities for communication, to create different channels of communication in the parish. There is never too much information, so it is vital to inform parishioners on what is happening in the parish, the progress of parochial initiatives, achievements, and failures. Information about changes, regardless of outcome (positive or negative), is absolutely necessary as we should constantly utilize our various channels of communication regarding everything that we do. Unfortunately, we must admit that in our parishes the lack of communication and information has always been an issue that needs to be addressed by the pastors / administrators. Communicating with parishioners and those interested in progress is extremely important, so it is necessary to inform the laity about the implementation of our decisions. When this happens all the parishioners will understand the direction we are moving in and the progress we are making. On the other hand, more people will be ready to join the parish community once they clearly understand what we are working on and what our goal is. Moreover the positive outcomes of our work will attract more people. This is even more important for our donors who can see how competent we are and where we are moving. Donors observe and evaluate our ability to work together, and to follow our vision, goals and strategy.
12. It is also very important to know what we should not do in the parish, which can be described and embedded as part of the parish vision. It is necessary to be realistic in evaluating the situation and the progress; i.e. we cannot just have dreams, but instead we should see real achievements. That is why we have to set realistic goals, the ones we can actually achieve. By setting unrealistic goals that are bound to fail, we will only discourage people. Setting small reachable goals helps involve the faithful in parish life, and this boosts their confidence and enables them to move forward to something new.
It is important to understand the long-term goal we want to achieve at some future date (for example, by 2025). In the parish vision, we need to thoroughly outline what we want to achieve and then, within that larger goal, to distinguish between 5 to 10 small parameters-objectives (for example: prayer, charitable work, involvement of new parishioners, financial situation, construction or certain repairs, and so on). After that, we need to outline the components of the objectives and what exactly needs to be done within each of them. Each of the objectives will require determining the share (in percentage) of the work it will require, so that at the end everything should comprise 100% of the planned labor. Then it will be clear what percentage of funds, time and effort should be allocated to each specific objective. It is absolutely necessary to discuss the decisions, the tasks and the methods necessary to realize them. Discussions help to properly evaluate the planning and implementation processes.
13. One of the most difficult tasks is the implementation of decisions. It is much easier to plan than to implement the plan. The holy fathers-hermits once said that planning means throwing stones from the bell tower, but implementing is like carrying heavy stones to the top of the bell tower. It is important to have certain criteria that provide an understanding of changes and movements. Clearly outlined success-factors and criteria determining the success or failure of our decisions are needed. We should be able to predict the growth and trajectory of our movement. If there are any changes, are they positive or negative, and in what direction are things moving? Therefore it is important to "measure" our changes and movement. We need to see where we have been before and where we are at present, to set clear deadlines and monitor this process. The criteria we have developed will show the current state of affairs and will allow us to see whether there is progress in the parish, whether there is a regression. This will help to really evaluate the entire process. That is why, it is necessary to have a Pastoral Council that will consist of people (a team) able to assist the pastor / administrator in pastoral issues, or coordinate work on his behalf. It is the Pastoral Council that is the auxiliary body that evaluates the implementation of the plan/vision.
14. Every project requires a professional expert (Pastoral Council headed by a priest), the decision maker (the whole parish or the Pastoral Council) and the executor (one or another person or group of persons). This approach to work organization allows everyone to work as a team, as a whole.
It is necessary to have an ongoing supervision over the implementation of decisions, preferably splitting the process into certain time increments in order to monitor what has been achieved and what has not. In the supervision process, the pastor/administrator plays the key role, as he makes the final decision and takes responsibility for it.
15. The Pastoral Council evaluates the achievements in different areas, according to the previously designed plans. At the meetings, the members of the Pastoral Council should analyze the information, discuss and evaluate the scope of work done on a previously approved decision. Board members should evaluate the project’s progress overall and the progress in each of the objectives in particular. Such an analysis of processes is required every 3 months of the actual year. Thus, meetings of the Pastoral Council should take place every 3 months, and if necessary, monthly. Every 6 months, the Pastoral Council should analyze the stages of strategy implementation and compliance with deadlines. It is also important to have an ongoing exchange of information about what is happening between the members of the Pastoral Council. It is a good idea for 2018 to have monthly meetings of the Pastoral Council, and every three months – meetings with parishioners. In the years to follow, the Pastoral Council may meet once every 2-3 months, and the parish assembly can take place 1-3 times a year.
16. In some cases, the priest can make decisions on his own. However, it is important that he should inform the parishioners of his decisions, provide the reasons and give updates on the progress. The pastor can also delegate the responsibility for the task to a particular person.
17. One of the priority tasks of the eparchial bishop is the establishment of effective eparchial structures, since these structures are called upon to assist him in the leadership of the eparchy (cf. 235-278 CCEO). These bodies should have direct contact with the parish communities. That is why, apart from the pastor/administrator and parishioners, the monitoring of the parish life must be also performed by the curial structures, i.e. the Pastoral Department of Curia, which usually consist of various commissions and divisions. The task of this Pastoral Department is to help the community look at the situation in the parish (compliance with the vision, the development, the strategy, various projects implementation etc.) with a fresh pair of eyes.
18. This year it is necessary to organize joint meetings of priests in the deaneries, where they can ask themselves questions: What is my mission as a priest at my parish? What is my vision of the parish where the Lord has sent me? What is my vision of the eparchy? What has the Lord called me here on earth for? What will the Lord ask me for in eternity?
May the blessing of the Lord be upon you!
Bishop of Saint Nicholas Eparchy
V. Rev. Serhiy Kovalchuk