Diocese seeks input from all via online survey

By Shelley Metcalf

Catholic Spirit Staff

The Diocese of Austin has entered into the second phase for developing the Pastoral Plan that will guide the diocese for the next three to five years.

Bishop Joe Vásquez has extended an invitation to all Catholics to help guide the planning process of the new pastoral plan by participating in a survey.

"The Catholic Church can no longer be about business as usual, as our Holy Father, Pope Francis has told us," the bishop said. "This new pastoral plan will help us create a road map for the future of our diocese. Therefore, I ask all of the members of our church to share their experiences with us."

Charlene O’Connell, who leads the steering committee for the Pastoral Plan, said Phase Two involves using technology to gather information from people throughout the Austin Diocese.

"For the first time in the history of the diocese it is possible for us to gather input from each and every Catholic through the online survey available on our diocesan website – www.austindiocese.org," O’Connell said. The goal is to get input from Catholics who actively participate in parish life and from those who are no longer part of our parish families.

"By sharing their experience through this survey, people have the opportunity to paint a picture of what the diocese could look like in the future," she said.

The online survey will identify the issues and trends that need to be addressed now and in the years to come. It will help "us, the steering committee, develop a Pastoral Plan that responds to the concerns, hopes and dreams of you, the people of the Diocese of Austin," O’Connell said.

Phase One of the process began with several listening sessions held in English and Spanish at various locations around the diocese. Consultants facilitated sessions with focused ministry groups, such as, parish social ministers, youth and young adult ministers, Catholic school principals, parish directors of religious education and others.

Currently, the steering committee is also in the process of conducting personal interviews of every priest in the diocese. However, O’Connell said, the most ambitious and important phase of the process is the online survey of the Catholic population – there are about 530,000 Catholics in the Austin Diocese.

"This survey is important, and we want as many Catholics, practicing and not practicing, to participate as possible. And please go take it now, we must have all the result by April 27," she said. Through the Internet and social media, the committee hopes to reach the majority of the Catholics in the diocese.

In the last year, Pope Francis has captivated the imagination of the world in exciting and inspiring ways. Bishop Vásquez said the diocese must take up the challenges that the pope is putting before us: to create a culture of encounter with Jesus Christ, to reach out to those persons who are on the margins of our communities, to focus on living the joy of the Gospel, and to be a church of mercy and compassion.

"This survey will give us the insights and dreams of those in our diocese to follow Pope Francis’ example, to have a greater enthusiasm for our faith … We need your insights into how we can better communicate Christ’s message of mercy and compassion. How can we, as Catholics, continue to foster and live Gospel values in our communities? How do we promote the dignity of the human person, the importance of the family and the common good of our society so that we may continue to be transformed by Jesus Christ?" the bishop said.

Visit www.austindiocese.org before April 27 to take the survey in English or in Spanish. Also, "like" the Diocese of Austin on Facebook to get more information about the pastoral planning process as well as other events happening in the diocese.

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