Bishop Announces Parish Restructuring Plan

Sunday, 20 January 2013 18:14

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Bishop Announces Parish Restructuring Plan to better Serve People of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw

SAGINAW — Through the work of Planning Tomorrow’s Parishes, the Most Rev. Joseph R. Cistone, Bishop of Saginaw, has reached decisions to restructure the parish communities of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw and designate use of churches to better serve the faithful. The parish restructuring plan is one component of Bishop Cistone’s vision for a complete revitalization of the diocese. In the fall of 2011, Bishop Cistone shared his vision for the diocese in his pastoral letter, A Future Full of Hope. It was his intention that the document would serve as the foundation of a plan to strengthen the Church of Saginaw.

 “I saw a need to position ourselves in a way by which parish communities are re-invigorated, liturgically alive and actively engaged in outreach to those in need,” Bishop Cistone said. “We must creatively address the spiritual, moral and intellectual development of our youth. Most especially, we need to focus on the mission of evangelization.”

By 2015, through the work and decisions of Planning Tomorrow’s Parishes, there will be 56 new parish communities, 24 churches for additional use and 29 churches for occasional use. Currently, there are 105 parish communities, several of which are technically missions, and four additional churches throughout the diocese.

“Despite the challenges we face and the uncertainties in the world around us, I am nevertheless convinced that the faithful of the Diocese of Saginaw will continue to do the work of Jesus Christ in a stronger, more vibrant way,” Bishop Cistone said.

Grassroots process
As part of the revitalization effort, the diocese engaged in the work of Planning Tomorrow’s Parishes, an intensive study and discernment process involving every parish across the diocese. More than 600 lay/faithful, pastors, pastoral administrators, deacons and religious sisters, representing every parish, served on parish core teams, as well as cohort teams — a grouping of three to seven neighboring parishes. They worked together to access the current state of parishes and make suggestions for future parish life.

Additionally, Bishop Cistone appointed a 19 member Diocesan Planning Commission to review suggestions from the parish teams and, following thoughtful study and review, the commission made preliminary recommendations last summer.

Each cohort team then had an opportunity to write a response with rationale to the Diocesan Planning Commission, including suggestions or objections to the preliminary recommendations. The Diocesan Planning Commission reviewed these responses and, following comprehensive analysis, presented Bishop Cistone with final recommendations.

Bishop Cistone personally met with every priest – active and retired – as well as every pastoral administrator in order to consider age, health conditions, retirement plans, and any other factors which determine strong parish leadership.

Further, he commissioned an engineering study of each parish structure, including bell towers. Before making final decisions, the Bishop consulted on two occasions with the Presbyteral Council, including regional vicars and members of the College of Consultors. 

Church designations for parish ministry

This weekend, via pre-recorded audio messages, Bishop Cistone personally shared the decisions reached regarding the work of Planning Tomorrow’s Parishes with parishioners in every parish across the diocese.

He noted the hard work, discussion, debate, tears and laughter and most especially, guidance and wisdom of the Holy Spirit, before announcing that all churches would be receiving one of three designations as part of their future parish ministry: parish church, church for additional use or church for occasional use.

All parish communities will have one designated parish church. This is the main church where regularly scheduled Masses and sacraments of initiation, such as Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist will be celebrated for all members of the parish community.

Masses also will be celebrated each weekend in each of the additional churches.

In churches designated for occasional use, regularly scheduled Masses will no longer be celebrated after a determined date, however, permission may be granted for weddings or funerals of former parishioners.

 “I believe many parishioners will welcome these decisions as an exciting opportunity to come together as stronger faith communities,” Bishop Cistone said. “However, I do realize some will experience feelings of loss and deep sadness. These feelings are real and I have promised to walk with our people during this time of transition and renewal.”

The Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith

“We must remember that it is the Eucharist, Jesus Christ Himself, who is the foundation, the very essence, of what it means for us to be Church,” Bishop Cistone said. “With the Eucharist as the source and summit of our faith, we must be willing to encounter each other anew and pray together as one family of God.”

Time of Transition coincides with diocesan 75th anniversary celebration

Bishop Cistone acknowledged that there is a great deal of work ahead to address the many spiritual and pastoral challenges facing the local Church. However, he assured the faith community that work is already underway at the diocesan level to assist parishes in the weeks and months ahead. Also, implementation teams are currently being formed on parish and diocesan levels.

 “Our anniversary year serves as an excellent opportunity to reflect on our rich past, celebrate the blessings of today, and envision A Future Full of Hope for the Catholic faithful of the Diocese of Saginaw,” Bishop Cistone said.

Detailed information regarding individual cohorts and definitions may be found by clicking here; a video from the afternoon news conference may be found by visiting

The Catholic Diocese of Saginaw was established by Pope Pius XI on February 26, 1938. Today, it includes 6,955 square miles across Arenac, Bay, Clare, Gladwin, Gratiot, Huron, Isabella, Midland, Sanilac, Saginaw and Tuscola counties. The diocesan 75th anniversary year of prayer and celebration for blessings past and yet to come began on September 8, 2012, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and will conclude on August 15, 2013, the Solemnity of the Assumption, the patronal feast of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw.

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