April, 2017 Planning for the Future Jonathan Swift said, “Vision is the art of seeing the invisible.” For a parish, this means looking ahead and creating a scenario for what you want it to look like a few years hence. Visualize the buildings, the people filling the spaces, the programs that are thriving and full of life, the makeup and energy of the parish community, the various occasions, liturgies and celebrations where the members interact, and the leadership that gives it direction. This takes some creativity and perspective, but there is no substitute for trying to spell out a future that provides hope, energy and vitality to leaders and parishioners alike. A compelling vision is not the same as the mission. The mission or purpose of why a parish exists is the bedrock that stays the same over the years until a major shift in direction takes place. It is usually spelled out in a few key words that everyone can remember and repeat to any new members or visitors. Some examples might include: Welcoming, Inclusive, Celebrating, Growing, Serving, Sharing, among others. A Parish Vision, on the other hand, may change with the circumstances. It provides a desired outcome for a certain target date in the future. “If we could only . . .” the leaders, and perhaps the parishioners, say, as they try to flesh out what they want to have happen five years down the road. They want it badly; they can see it, feel it, desire it enough to marshal all the resources, energies, personnel, motivation and commitments of the parish to make it happen. Vision 2020 St. Monica Parish in Santa Monica, California has tried to paint the picture of their invisible future as “a strategic plan establishing goals and objectives in support of the St. Monica Catholic Community mission of ‘Forming Loving Disciples Who Will Transform the World.’” (www.stmonica.net) The vision covers seven parish ingredients they hope to achieve over the next five years. • A Welcoming Place of Worship: “Make every effort to permeate our parish life with hospitality and respect for the diversity of our community.” • A Catalyst for Ministry and Service: “Offer a variety of opportunities to be involved in ministry, build relationships, and make a difference in the world.” • A Place for Spiritual Formation: “Grow in faith through prayer, meditation, retreats, scripture reflection, faith sharing groups and a vibrant sacramental life.” • Opportunities to Connect: “Provide occasions for adults, young adults, traditional and non-traditional families, couples, singles and youth to connect, make friends, and have a joyful experience.” • Prudent Stewardship of Resources: “Strive to manage our resources well and give back responsibly to our community. Our financial condition is transparent.” • Leadership Development: “Promote ordained ministers, religious life and strong lay leadership with collaborative decision-making processes for parish councils, volunteers and subject-matter experts.” • Fidelity to Catholic Doctrine: “Being faithful to the foundational teachings of the Church and Gospel message. Succeeding pages of the St. Monica Vision 2020 include Five Year Assumptions of what is likely to be happening, one of which is the retirement of the current pastor. Also listed are the Goals and Opportunities in the areas of Worship, Ministry, Service, Formation, Parish Schools, Community-building, Administration, Leadership development and Discipleship. One stated goal is: “To move persons from the ‘Not Engaged’ group to the ‘Engaged’ group over the coming years.” The 2020 Vision plan concludes with three Appendices covering the areas of Spiritual Commitment, Member Engagement and Inviting Others to Our Parish. St. Monica’s is a parish that it seeing “the invisible” and is working towards its fulfillment. Tom Sweetser, SJ