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Brisbane Archdiocese booklets: how to make parishes 'zoom along'
A pair of booklets titled Celebrate and Learn have recently come to hand. They are the work of the Offices of Adult Education and Parish Review and Planning within the office of Brisbane Catholic Education. They each carry the general banner of "Evaluation of Ministry and Service" and are the offspring of the Brisbane Archdiocese's Shaping Our Future modernisation and re-structuring blueprint, finalised in 1989.
Each of the above booklets calls for the setting up of parish "task-forces" comprising 3-5 local activists and provides detailed instructions on how they are to evaluate their parish's liturgical and theological up-to-dateness.
While there are a number of criteria among the over 80 listed to which few would object, the dominant flavour is of "everyday relevance" and even political correctness. Nowhere is there mention of Mass attendance levels, Eucharistic adoration, reverence, daily Masses, effective use of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, or numbers at confession, as indicators of a parish's "success".
Meanwhile, in progressive Brisbane, the Banyo Seminary received not one new recruit for 1997 and Mass attendances continued to fall. But not, it seems, the numbers of bureaucrats, with recent advertisements in the Brisbane Catholic Leader (2 March 1997) calling for applications for an "Executive Secretary/Project Officer to the Archbishop's Taskgroup on Women's Participation in the Church" and for the post of "Administration/Project Officer within the Vicariate of Church Life and Mission." Among requirements for the latter are that he/she have "an understanding of the Mission and Directions of the Archdiocese."
The nature of "Mission and Directions" could be deduced from samples of the 80 plus criteria listed for evaluation by each parish task-force. At the end of each sub-section in the two booklets, the task-force is asked to record its "Assessment" of the parish (and presumably directly or indirectly its priest) as "On the Slide," "In the Pits", "On the Improve" or "Zooming Along."
Brisbane's few remaining 'traditionalist' or 'conservative' parish priests might well find it disconcerting to have local activists put their liturgies and degree of theological correctness under the microscope. No doubt any parish and/or priest meriting the rating "In the Pits" will be earmarked for re-education and/or counselling, so that the entire Archdiocese will eventually "Zoom along" in happy progressive unison.
The Celebrate booklet, which concentrates on liturgy, includes the following litmus tests of a "Zooming Along" parish:
The Learn booklet focuses on how to evaluate a parish's theological uptodateness, as for example:
Meanwhile, the "here-and-now reality" facing Brisbane and other dioceses is that Catholics are leaving the practice of the faith no matter how "relevant" are the liturgies, renewal programs and religion courses.
Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 10 No 3 (April 1997), p. 5
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