Families of Parishes announced; pilots families begin in January
After a year in the consultative process, the Diocese of Buffalo’s Families of Parishes are now finalized. A total of 36 families will be formed by the current 161 parishes in the diocese. These parishes will join together in small groups to share resources and staff under one pastor with an increased role for the laity.
“The goal of the families is to have lay leaders who are elevated and are in positions to share the leadership of the family with the clergy. We’re definitely going to have fewer clergy in the future and we really need them to be focused in on our sacramental and religious ministry. So, having a strong lay leader partnership is going to be a critical part of forming a family,” explained Carrie Frank, member of the Diocesan Renewal Task Force.
Families range in size from three to six parishes and can expect priests, deacons and laity working together as teams to serve the needs of the family. Two families will be split into A and B sections with two pastors. This is due to geographical distance and parishes already established working relationships. Several listening sessions have taken place over the year, along with surveys, meetings, and emails, to gather input from clergy, staff, adult parishioners and youth.
“We wanted to make sure families were not too large or too small, both geographically and parishioner base. The schools were considered while crafting the families as well,” said Father Bryan Zielenieski, vicar for Renewal and Development for the diocese. “Other than geography, we looked at relationships between parishes. Were parishes working together, were they collaborating in some way already, do they share a township, school district, is there something that naturally connects them? Do parishes have a history together, such as a mother/daughter parish. We looked at ministries, do parishes have ministries that could benefit another nearby parish? Socioeconomic data was part of our consideration. We looked at many factors when making these decisions, including the input of the vicar foranes of each vicariate, asking them who they believed would work well together.”
Six pilot families have been selected and will be activated Jan. 17, 2022. Those pilots include the parishes of Sacred Heart of Jesus, St. Mary of the Assumption, Our Lady of Pompeii, St. Philip the Apostle, Blessed Mother of Teresa and St. Martha in the Cheektowaga, Depew, Lancaster area; St. John the Baptist, All Saints, Immaculate Conception, St. Brendan on the Lake in Niagara County; St. Michael, St. Isidore and Mary Immaculate in Wyoming County; Assumption, Holy Spirit, St. Margaret, St. Mark, St. Rose of Lima and All Saints in North Buffalo; Holy Name of Mary, St. Philomena and Our Lady of Peace in Cattaraugus County; and St. Martin of Tours, St. Teresa, St. Thomas Aquinas and Our Lady of Charity in South Buffalo.
Pastors will be announced in April.
“The pilots are an important part of the process as they allow the Renewal team to focus particular attention on making sure these families are successful, and learning about all that is involved in the implementation process,” Bishop Michael W. Fisher said in a letter to all priests.
The rest of the families of parishes will be activated in three phases taking place, October 2022, October 2023 and October 2024.
“The other important thing is that families do some real discerning about what they want to accomplish, what they really can be together, how can they enrich ministry, how can they build more outreach, how can they be disciples and how can they really serve people in need. Really recreating what Church means to that community as they serve as a family is a real important part,” said Frank.
The last of the families will be a Campus Ministry Family comprised of 27 campuses. This family will bring together the mission of campus ministry, but the colleges will have a territorial relationship to the Family of Parishes in which they are geographically located. The Campus Ministry Family will serve as a parent to all campus ministries, providing guidance and leadership among all of the college campus ministries.
The Road to Renewal initiative was launched in August 2020 with a goal to reinvigorate Catholic faith, more fully optimize parish and diocesan resources, and increase the reach and impact of Catholic ministries.
A full list of all 36 families can be found at roadtorenewal.org/families.