Frequently Asked Questions
This page addresses many of the questions the faithful have about the Road to Renewal. Why Families of Parishes? Why is my priest moving? What is a parochial vicar? If you have a question that is not addressed here, please feel free to submit them here.
The Road to Renewal is a program designed to enhance parish life and to bring vitality to parishes and doing that through a family parishes model. One of the obstacles and challenges before us is that there are parishes that are hanging on by a thread, both financially and sacramentally. Bishop Mike has acknowledged that some of our parishes are struggling, and if we need to address the need to close a parish as part of the road to renewal, we have a plan and a way to make that happen.
But that's not the ultimate goal of the renewal. The ultimate goal of the renewal is to strengthen parishes. But again, we will address those specific situations on an as needed basis.
On December 1, 2020 Bishop Michael Fisher was named as the 14th Bishop of Buffalo. Upon his appointment, Bishop Mike was introduced to the work of the ‘Diocesan Renewal Task Force’ (DRTF). This group of leaders was commissioned under the Apostolic Administrator of Bishop Scharfenberger to respond to key issues plaguing the Diocese of Buffalo:
- Abuse scandal in the Diocese of Buffalo
- Broken trust in leadership
- Chapter 11 Reorganization
- Attorney General Lawsuit
- Covid Pandemic
Each of these critical issues demanded a response for the future of the Diocese of Buffalo. The Diocesan Renewal Task Force (DRTF) researched, discerned, and came up with the model of what we now know as the ‘Road to Renewal’. The Road to Renewal is a way forward and a response to the key issues that were plaguing the Diocese of Buffalo.
Bishop Mike immediately endorsed the work of the DRTF and also deemed it necessary to have a listening ear to the Diocese before moving forward with the Road to Renewal. Bishop Mike consulted with priests, deacons, religious and the lay faithful through listening sessions. Priests had an opportunity to participate in 16 listening sessions that included each vicariate. They gathered based on years of ordination, as well as a general session for all priests held at St. Gregory the Great. Our Deacons had an opportunity to attend 15 listening sessions that included each vicariate, and a listening session for all deacons and their wives also held at St. Gregory the Great. Lay leaders have been invited to numerous sessions in their vicariates and at the Catholic Center as well.
After the listening sessions and discernment, Bishop Mike believed it was time to move the Renewal forward.
The purpose of the Road to Renewal is to respond to these key issues and others by evaluating and reforming critical areas of Catholic life in Buffalo.
- Catholic Center – The Renewal will help the Catholic Center to embrace a new vision for ministering in the Diocese moving forward.
- Catholic Education – Inspiring and instilling the faith through our Catholic schools and Faith Formation programs must be vibrant and evangelizing to keep our young people active in the faith.
- Spirituality – Focusing on Jesus Christ, as the center of all we do in the Diocese of Buffalo, is the aim of the Renewal.
- Evangelization – Reaching out to those we have lost and those who have not yet found Christ.
- Concentrating efforts on our young people who need to be ministered to
- Becoming far more welcoming to people and letting them know they have a place in our Diocese and Catholic parishes
- Parishes – Having vibrant parishes to minister to the faithful of our Diocese is of utmost importance. Ministerial and financial stability of our parishes is essential to ensuring a future of success and growth.
- Bringing parishes together into a collaborative model known as a ‘Family of Parishes’ is the best path forward to create parish vibrancy and mitigate the diminishing number of priests to serve in our Diocese.
Research from the 66 other Dioceses that are in collaborative models has shown that the better option for management of the Family model is a single pastor model. Further research from CARA at Georgetown University and Villanova – Center for Church Management further support a single pastor model stating that their research has yielded evidence supporting a one pastor model as more beneficial to the future of parish success.
Priests will be assigned at multiple times due to a wide variety of factors. The assignment of priests is based on what was learned from the pilot families and based on the individual needs of each clergy member.
Priest assigned to assist the Pastor in a Family with specific areas of delegated accountabilities and assigned responsibilities within the Family. Senior Parochial Vicar has the exact responsibilities as a parochial vicar but has more experience as a priest. The additional title ‘senior’ is a reflection that they have served the Diocese as a pastor, or have seniority.
If you are from Parish A and you attend Parish B one weekend, as long as you use your envelope and submit that in the collection basket, parish B will send that donation back to Parish A. But we need to make sure that we're using our envelopes so that our financial support can continue to help our parishes moving forward.
And so while each parish remains financially independent, it's important for all of us to realize. No matter where we go, our donation needs to be marked and that will take it back to where it is intended for and support them along the way.
I understand that this is a time of uncertainty within our diocese, and it's not just the Road to Renewal that's bringing the uncertainty. There are many factors that led to the Road to Renewal. Some of those, of course, being our chapter 11, the sex abuse scandal, and COVID-19 Pandemic had a major impact on the future vitality and viability of our parishes.
All of those things have left people uncertain. The Road to Renewal, actually trying to help ease that tension and uncertainty as we come up with a plan going forward. So the Bishop was very adamant about us working together and coming up with decisions collaboratively. Certainly he could've come in with a plan and said, we're closing parish A, D, F, and G, and the rest of you're gonna stay open.
But that's a top down approach. The Road to Renewal is meant for us to talk about it from the ground up if there are parishes that we need to address again. That comes from the ground level and we bring that forward in the renewal and we'll address that. But we're really about trying to strengthen parishes to work together as a family.
Now, that doesn't mean things will stay the same. Everything is going to have to change. There's going to be different mass schedules, different ways in which we operate the office, different ways in which ministry are handled within the parish. And I know that can bring uncertainty, but when we're working together, communicating as individual parishes coming together as a family. It will help to clarify and take some of this animosity and some of the tension out of the process. Trust the process, be informed. Keep praying, the Holy Spirit's got us.
Our Safe Environment office here under the direction of Don Blowey is very helpful in guiding all parishes and the families of parishes as we move forward and to who's going to be responsible for Safe Environment trainings. We know that volunteers, anybody that works with youth, have to have Safe Environment training, and that is coordinated through the diocese. Each parish location should already have a Safe Environment coordinator(s). That does not change. And so that person is still responsible for filing the reports, making sure the trainings are taking place, that our faith formation programs, the students are getting the training they need as well. All of that remains the same at this point.
If there's a change that's discussed at the family level in collaboration with the Safe Environment Office at the diocese.