Q&A with Father Bryan Zielenieski,

Vicar for Renewal and Development

Is there a timeline of when this will be done, or when the next major hurdle will be?

No, there’s no specific timeline in place. The whole idea is that this renewal is really something that should be happening all the time. We’re just trying to get it started and get the ball rolling. Then it’s really looking at the mission of the Church and how do we constantly renew ourselves to be better. So, it’s a whole lifestyle change.

Can you define our short-term and long-term priorities?

The long-term priority is to certainly strengthen the parishes within the diocese, help people to make disciples and evangelize, and really be good stewards of the resources that have been given to us. Short-term goals are really identifying the immediate needs of our parishes and helping them to move forward post-pandemic.

Can you describe what the diocese will be like a year from now, or six months?

I would say, only God knows. That’s very hard to say at this point because we’re entering into the consultation phase of this Road to Renewal. There’s been some rough data taken before, but now we’re into the consultation phase. So, what’s it going to look like in a year? It’s all going to depend on what the fruit of the consultation is.

What should pastors and principals and even people in the pews be doing now?

They should number one be praying for the Road to Renewal. Pray for renewal in our diocese and in our parishes. Number two be open to the Holy Spirit. Be open to looking at ways we can do things better. That might not be the way we used to be, but it’s a new way to collaborate and cooperate with one another. So, they can already start identifying what are the strengths of their parishes and what are areas that need to be improved. Those are the facts we’re going to look at in helping to renew moving forward.

We’ve been dealing with the pandemic for the past year. That’s had a major impact on the parishes. As a pastor yourself, has COVID-19 had an effect on knowing your strengths? Will your parish be different in six months?

Correct. That’s why we need more consultation because the effect of the pandemic on our parishes; we really don’t know what that’s going to look like because some parishes are struggling more than others because of the pandemic. A parish that thought it was strong before, might not have the people coming to Mass. That why we have to consult more – to find out what are the effect the pandemic has had on our parishes and how can we help these parishes to more forward and have the resources and help that they need. It might be in collaborating with one another. That’s something different that maybe hasn’t happened as much as it should if in the past.

There’s been talk about mergers and parishes sharing resources. Is that something we can expect?

That’s the big question people ask. Are you going to close and merge places? The answer is, I don’t know yet. That’s the honest answer. Until we consult to know what’s going on and what’s out there, it would be too preliminary to say anything. The whole idea behind the renewal is to strengthen one another. The goal would be to close no parishes, but to help strengthen each other to be the best we can. Whether we are able to achieve that is yet to be seen.

What are the people’s concerns?

Right now, most questions are: What is the renewal? Most people don’t know what the renewal really is. That’s the preliminary work that needs to be done right now. What is it about? Unfortunately, when people hear renewal immediately they think closures and mergers, and it’s not that. It’s a revitalization. The whole thing is about bringing life back.

Additional Resources

Vatican Instruction: The Pastoral Conversion of the Parish Community document (LINK)

Pope Francis Apostolic Exhortation: Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) (LINK)

Pope Francis Apostolic Exhortation: Gaudete et Exultate (Rejoice and Be Glad) (LINK)

Vatican Guidelines for Parishes: 5 Things you Need to Know (LINK)

Buffalo News Op Ed by Bishop Scharfenberger: Reimagining parishes is a step along road to renewal (LINK)

Inspired by Luke 24:13 Road to Emmaus

Lord Jesus Christ, you promise that you will accompany us on our journey of life. You are the Resurrection and the life.  At times we fail to see you because the circumstances of life are hard. Our church is dealing with challenges and we need you. 
As the disciple’s hearts were enflamed on the road to Emmaus, we ask that you guide our efforts and enflame our hearts with your Holy Spirit. Help us to be bold in renewing our commitment to your mission on earth. Help the Diocese of Buffalo and our parish to recognize you, the Risen Lord in the Breaking of the Bread. May our renewal efforts change our attitude and hearts to embrace the future in love so we can proclaim the Gospel of Joy.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.