Monday, August 22, 2011

The Manifesto

Part One

I have just read the doctoral thesis titled “Effective Church Operational Systems” by Deacon Dean. The 252-page thesis-project outlines the plan he has been implementing at All Saints Parish, particularly in the last few years.

Awarded a doctorate in the ministry program at the Protestant Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary this year, Dean has synthesized “successful operation methodologies and principles developed for other types of organizations” and has implemented “a strategic operations system into a Roman Catholic parish to position it for effective ministerial development in the future. This system is transferable to other church settings.” (My emphases throughout.)

This fundamental change is predicated on three things according to the thesis: declining finances, declining participation, and declining vocations. “The author explores how to generate healthy church growth by focusing on the development of an effective operational systems [sic] for church leadership.”

In short, this is a manifesto for a secular/protestant hybrid model of parish governance. It is all laid out.

Dean writes, “This thesis-project explores how to implement effective change to move a particular Roman Catholic parish toward greater health and growth…It will examine the unprecedented implementation of an unpublished process, developed by James Moore for use in industry, into a Roman Catholic parish. The process and its implementation will be contextualized within systems thinking and healthy church development. The principle focus will be in how the process can be used to develop an effective operational system for the leadership of the parish. With an effective operation system on the leadership level, those in leadership will be able to cultivate desired changes that lead to greater congregational health.”

Let’s try to get at the motives undergirding this change. First, the emphasis is on ministerial development and leadership as the driving force behind parish health. That is certainly a major factor, and using the statistics provided in the thesis, one can make a strong case that the drive in the Diocese of Rochester to move parishes from a priest/pastor model to a lay-run model has had catastrophic results.

There is a great deal of information that we’ll be going through in the next few weeks that will make clear what has been happening and why it has been happening. While our own parishioners, former staff, and churches have and are suffering the effects of the implementation of this type of model, I ask that we all try to keep our comments impersonal and focused on the ideas and not the individuals. It is going to be a bumpy ride.

Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities.


  1. Key word here is "PROTESTANT", not "CATHOLIC". Still supporters out there? Unbelieveable!

  2. I continue to read with great interest and look forward to your informative posts. Your blog link is passed around the Bath-H'port area regularly.

  3. The leader of our Roman Catholic parish has studied for his doctorate at a Protestant seminary.
    How telling. How troubling. How pathetic.

  4. I have to pay 15 bucks to read that? Geez, talk about a mental dilemma. :-)

    I guess we are seeing the zenith of the lay leader model. I find it quite sad that the leaders ascribe to an organizational model, as opposed to inner formation and prayer. This is nothing more than inviting the "world" in. And, with a Protestant twist, at that.

  5. Does Canon Law meaning anything in Rochester? There is a reason in the absence of a priest/pastor the pastoral administrator is supposed to be a. deacon or b. a religious with c. laity following behind only if there is no other option. I spent $15 to read a history I lived partially through completely lied about? Father Brennan might have been old school but to a less well off single parent family child there was always a new ball glove or pair of cleats when needed - after I cleaned the church or school to earn them and learn the value of work (another bad thing toward building a church community - hence why I remain active in my current parish) - how fitting for someone who did not understand how to build community. Hurricanne Agnes was in 1925 right? Maybe that is why parishioners used to fight over who could invite Father Brennan over for dinner. No community there. Guess that is why I respectfully pray for a truly venerable Holy Man every time I come to Corning.

  6. The quote about Fr. Brennan from the thesis is: "The winds of change blew strong as the Church moved into the culturally tumultuous time of the 1960's and Vatican II. These changes impacted the church worldwide. All the parishes dutifully embraced the liturgical changes called for, with Fr. Brennan at St Mary Church dragging his feet. He was proud of his old school mentality and did not really embrace these new-fangled ideas."

    I was told that when Fr. Brennan died he had rosaries near his casket in St. Mary Church, asking that parishioners take one and pray for the parish. Apparently he saw what was coming.

  7. I did not know Father Brennan but have heard from many who believe that he truly was a saint. One to be mocked for his old school mentality? Or criticized for dragging his feet?

    Shame on you Dean Condon. And thank you to Gretchen for bringing this information to light, as it certainly would not make the front page of the All Saints parish bulletin.

    I will pick up my "old school rosary" and pray for this parish and the intercession of both Father Brennan and Father Davis.