In 2003 Bishop Kevin McDonald initiated a process of strategic consultation and planning which was named "Build My Church".
Groups in parishes were asked to discuss numerous questions under the major headings of "Being a Catholic today" and "Being a Catholic tomorrow", and a wide range of responses was obtained.
The process was delayed because of his translation to the Archbishopric of Southwark later that year, but work continued to be done during the interregnum. At the instigation of Bishop Peter Doyle, the Pastoral Strategy Group concluded the work of Build My Church with an informative leaflet outlining the work of the process. This was distributed to all parishes.Bishop Peter also announced a Diocesan gathering to be held at the RE Centre, Milton Keynes on 8th December, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, 2007. Our Blessed Lady Immaculate is one of the Diocesan patrons.
At that meeting he shared with us his vision for the Diocese. He explained that he drew inspiration from the prophet Micah, whose admonition to "act justly, love tenderly, and walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8) was incorporated in his episcopal crest. Reviewing the history and challenges of the Diocese, he spoke of the need for "Three C's" - Confidence in God, our faith, and ourselves, Conversation with God, with each other and with the world, and Connections, the outworking of "love God and love your neighbour" whereby the Church engages with its members and with the world.
In practical terms, he said he wanted to see three "streams of effort and energy" developing.
- One would be an ongoing process of human and spiritual formation for Diocesan clergy.
- The second would be the development of a parallel programme of education and formation for lay people.
- The third would be the establishment of a multi-skilled group of clergy and laity to think strategically and practically about the future of the Diocese. Their remit would be to consult with deaneries and prepare "groundplans" for the life and mission of the Church in local areas.
The text of Bishop Peter's address at that meeting is available as a download from here - search "Walking Humbly Current" in the dropdown categories menu.
There are several formational sessions for priests in the course of a year. Every couple of years there is a major retreat abroad.
Days of Recollection, Gatherings/Retreats and Study Days for clergy are held annually.
For deacons, there are annual meeting days when wives are welcome, and an emerging structure of regional meetings.
Please enquire of Fr Francis Higgins atBeaconsfield for an update on progress in this area
A team was brought together at the invitation of the Bishop and met twenty-three times between April 2008 and May 2010. The Team conducted a series of consultation meetings with Diocesan bodies and the Deanery Pastoral Councils,from November 2008 into early March 2009. Summaries of its first few discussions may be downloaded here - just search for "Stream 3 Archives" in the Categories drop-down menu. It completed its work when the Area Groundplans, which it was set up to assist, were (mostly) delivered to the Bishop by late May 2010 - on time !
The move to Pastoral Areas - and the Groundplans
In May 2009 the former eight Deaneries were replaced by thirteen "Pastoral Areas" intended for more effective sharing and collaboration. The Area Deans and "Pastoral Area Links" convened Local Steering Groups which began work in autumn 2009 with reviews of local provision in their Areas. Their remit weas to produce Groundplans setting out priorities for the life and mission of the Church in their Areas. These were to address the changes brought about by having fewer priests, in the context of an aspiration to move ever closer to the model of a "Thriving Catholic Community" which was articulated by the Stream Three Team and taken up for themselves by local communities. Those Groundplans were mostly presented to the Bishop at the end of May 2010.
The Pastoral Areas and their Deans
With effect from May 2009 Bishop Peter appointed new Deans to lead the thirteen Pastoral Areas which replaced the former eight Deaneries. The names of the Deans, and the Patron Saints of the Areas, have been published on this site here for some while. From the box above-left, you can download a PDF document which gives a diagrammatic Map of the new Pastoral Areas. (The reasons behind this change were explained at length to all priests, deacons, Religious, Deanery Pastoral Councils and Diocesan agencies during the consultation process that lasted from November 08 to March 09.) On the back of the Map is a list of the Areas, with the names of constituent parishes and churches in each, and the names of the Area Deans. With regard to the final names of the new Areas, the geographical names along the lines of the ones provisionally allotted have been found serviceable: but most Areas have now chosen Patron Saints (see the list here) and we have now updated the Map to include these.
Click here for the state of the process at the end of 2013.