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Catholics across central and southern Indiana are waiting for Pope Francis to appoint a new shepherd.
To prepare for his arrival, archdiocesan Catholics are being given the opportunity to give him a clear and detailed portrait of the archdiocese and to express their hopes for its future.
This will happen through the creation of a pastoral needs assessment of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.
The assessment was commissioned by Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, archbishop of Indianapolis from 2012-16 in the days before he was installed on Jan. 6 as archbishop of Newark, N.J.
It will involve interviews of 25-30 people from across the archdiocese, several listening sessions attended by dozens of clergy, religious and lay Catholics, and an online survey that all archdiocesan Catholics can fill out.
Washington-based consulting firm GP Catholic Services will conduct the assessment. Daniel Conway, senior vice president for the firm and a member of the editorial board of The Criterion, will oversee the process.
“Cardinal Tobin himself said that this kind of information would have been very helpful to him when he became archbishop four years ago,” Conway said, “so he was eager to see us provide that for his successor.”
As a whole, the assessment will seek to answer two questions: where the archdiocese is at present, and where God is calling it to go.
To discern the answers to these questions, five aspects of the life of the Church in central and southern Indiana will be examined in the interviews, listening sessions and survey: prayer and worship; evangelization and education in the faith; family and community; service to the poor and marginalized; and stewardship of resources.
Father Joseph Feltz, executive director of the archdiocesan office for clergy, religious and parish life coordinators, is working closely with Conway and others at GP Catholic Services in coordinating the listening sessions and interviews that will take place across central and southern Indiana from February through May.
“It’s going to be a huge benefit to the next archbishop,” Father Feltz said. “To be working on an initiative that we know is going to be beneficial to him when he is named and arrives here is gratifying. I’m looking forward to it.”
A report on the information and data gathered is expected to be completed by GP Catholic Services by the end of June.
Archdiocesan chancellor Annette “Mickey” Lentz said that the assessment can also help archdiocesan Catholics spiritually prepare to receive him by prayerfully expanding their knowledge of the Church in central and southern Indiana, and helping them prayerfully consider their hopes and concerns for it.
“It can give ownership to the people who are in our communities in central and southern Indiana,” she said. “I think it can be equally as beneficial to those in the pews and those leading the people in the pews as it can be for the new archbishop.”
The assessment was commissioned in part because Cardinal Tobin and other archdiocesan leaders were preparing to begin a pastoral planning process for the entire Church in central and southern Indiana late last year.
Cardinal Tobin’s appointment to lead the Archdiocese of Newark put those plans on hold.
“One of the regrets he had in leaving us was that he felt that we had some good momentum,” Father Feltz said. “He was excited about the pastoral planning process, thinking that it was going to be a good way for us to start seeing what we need to be striving toward.”
The compilation of the pastoral needs assessment would have been the first part of the pastoral planning process.
Although the decision to go forward with the archdiocesan planning process will be at the discretion of the next archbishop, Cardinal Tobin felt completing the assessment would be a good introduction of the archdiocese to his successor, and wanted it to engage as many archdiocesan Catholics as possible.
“It’s an attempt to reach out to everybody,” Conway said. “Not everybody will participate. But everybody will have the opportunity to participate.”
Lentz noted that the assessment “is an opportunity to shape what happens in this archdiocese over the years to come, to give direction and input to our new archbishop, to stand on the shoulders of what has been, but also to look at the landscape differently. It’s an exciting time.” †