Today, our parish staffing task force met in Casper.  Much information has been compiled through parish surveys, parish listening sessions, and deanery clergy sessions.  I am very grateful for the work of this group.

This is the “second lung” of our strategic planning process.  This task force is charged with making recommendations regarding the best distribution of our priests, future combinations of parish and mission churches, looking at other possible parish life coordinator roles, and lastly how we may re-work sacramental schedules in areas with more than one parish.

Each member of the group reflected that the discussions are generating a lot of hope, and little fear.  One other benefit from such broad-ranging discussions is it helps the “whole church” better understand the challenges we face, which not only gives them an opportunity to help construct our response, but also gives them deeper understanding of the present reality.

A couple of points I wish to reiterate:  First, as we look to the possibility of fewer priests, our option is not just to recruit more priests and more seminarians.  Our option is not just to give greater emphasis to the role of the laity.  It is a matter of enhancing both of these. 

As bishop, I am fully committed to recruiting qualified priests to serve the people of this diocese.  I am also fully engaged in the process of building a culture of vocations that encourages young men from within our own diocese to seriously pray about and consider that God may be calling them to the priesthood.  I am fully committed to helping our families realize that these vocations to the priesthood are to come from THEIR (our) families…not somebody elses.

I also see a strong need to raise understanding through good stewardship that all our people are called to service in the church.  A perfect example is just yesterday, a gentelman came to the chancery office and gave us a day of service, making telephone calls for our development office.  There are so many ways (and needs) in our parishes for people to “step up” and further enhance our hospitality and ministries.

I also believe through our strategic plan we will find ways in the future to offer more in terms of development of lay ministries.  The bottom line is, it is a “whole church” we seek to build; each member offering his or her gifts for the good of the Body of Christ.  It is a big project.  It is a life-long project, which will last until Christ comes again or He calls us home.  So, church, let’s all pitch in and do our part!