Frequently Asked Questions
What is Renew My Church?
Jesus Christ calls us to constantly renew His Church. Renew My Church is the Archdiocese of Chicago’s response to discern His call for renewal in a multi-year and heavily resourced effort that engages parishioners to participate in reshaping parish life to be more vibrant and sustainable in taking up the mission of Jesus.
As part of that response are a set of initiatives designed to introduce people who have no familiarity with the Christian faith into a life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ, as well as deepen and strengthen the discipleship of existing Catholics so that they are able to evangelize the world through an inspiring witness in their communities.
Initiatives range from pastoral leadership programs and vocation discernment to faith-in-action efforts, such as anti-violence and immigrant support. The most significant investment is in parish vitality through our parish grouping process – the goal of which is to create a culture of evangelization and improve the vital ministries within each parish community by restructuring and redirecting necessary resources.
Who is leading the Renew My Church efforts?
Renew My Church is the work of the Holy Spirit. Everything we are doing is a response to our Lord’s invitation to create a strong, sustainable foundation upon which His Church can serve to bring us, those we love, and those on the margins into a personal encounter and lifelong relationship with Jesus Christ.
What is the goal of Renew My Church?
The goal is to enliven the Catholic faith in the Archdiocese of Chicago and reshape parish life to be more intentional in making disciples, building communities and inspiring witness – these are our mission imperatives.
Why do we need to renew?
Renewal is at the core of the Church’s identity as the Body of Christ, who is always doing something new. As it is true in every age, we have our own challenges, which Jesus invites us to take up as he accompanies us:
- The breakdown of the family; violence and lack of respect for life and human dignity; social ills of racism and poverty all point to a world in need of witnesses to the compassion and redemption of Jesus Christ.
- Our culture is increasingly secular, broken and opposed to faith with less understanding of the Christian message.
An alarming, increasing number of people do not know Jesus Christ.
- 36% percent of Millennials claim no affiliation with organized religion.
And many within our Church today lack a strong and fervent discipleship:
- 85% confirmed stop practicing the faith by 21
We can no longer assume children will grow into an active faith life, and we need to proclaim the Gospel in new ways.
Everything is fine at my parish – why does anything need to change with us?
All parishes have experienced a significant drop in attendance in participation, not to mention an aging of their communities. A survival of the fittest mentality is naïve and not the nature of our Church. As Cardinal Cupich has shared, “We need to create a new set of relationships among ourselves in which we are not independent, living in our silos, but interdependent. As parishes, the challenge is to become families of families that are stronger and more effective in mission than when we worked in isolation.” We are stronger together.
What is the cross that I see associated with Renew My Church materials?
The San Damiano cross keeps our focus through Renew My Church
Praying before this cross, St. Francis of Assisi heard Jesus call to him: “Go repair my Church, which as you see is falling completely in ruin.” At first, St. Francis initially took this to mean he was to repair the church buildings of San Damiano. However, eventually he discerned that Jesus was calling him to rebuild the spiritual life and vitality of the Church.
This icon of Jesus helps us to keep in focus three things:
- As it portrays Jesus as speaking to us even though he is dying which serves as a reminder not to be afraid to take up this work even if it costs us something, for Jesus is with us.
- Jesus is surrounded by others, highlighting that as we take up the challenge of renewal, our unity should not be diminished but strengthened.
- Jesus is also featured as the Risen One at the top of the cross, which is a sign of hope to us that in this renewal, which will require us to die to ourselves and familiar patterns, Jesus is offering us new life and vitality for the future.
What are the mission imperatives of Renew My Church?
1. Make Disciples
- Everything we are doing through Renew My Church is to create a strong and sustainable foundation upon which our Church can serve to bring more people - today and in the future - into a personal encounter and lifelong relationship with Jesus Christ.
2. Build Community
- Our parish and school communities today face a number of impediments to vitality—the parishioner bases of many parishes are very small; the number of school-aged children in areas has decreased; ; we have fewer priests; many of our parishes are not sustainable to carry on the mission of the Church; and many parishes and schools have deferred maintenance for many years, resulting in unaffordable capital needs. But, it is also important to admit that resourcing alone is not enough to meet the needs of our times. Parish and school communities that today are well-resourced and vibrant still face significant challenges because of the changes in society.
- Seven facets of parish vitality have been identified to guide the renewal of our parish communities:
- Culture of Evangelization
- Ongoing Formation and Discipleship
- Vibrant Worship
- Rich Community Life
- Commitment to Service
- Passion for Vocations
- Faithful Stewardship
3. Inspire Witness
- In keeping with the urging of the Second Vatican Council, Pope Francis is calling the Church to go out into the world as a field hospital to bring healing to a world torn by division, violence, racism, poverty and to promote respect for human dignity and life.
What is my role in Renew My Church?
Pray for the Holy Spirit to renew our Church, stay informed about what’s happening within our archdiocese and your parish, and become involved!
As Pope Francis said when he visited the United States: “One of the great challenges facing the Church in this generation is to foster in the faithful a sense of personal responsibility for the Church’s mission, and to enable them to fulfill that responsibility as missionary disciples, as a leaven of the Gospel in our world. This will require creativity in adapting to changed situations, carrying forward the legacy of the past not primarily by maintaining our structures and institutions, which have served us well, but above all by being open to the possibilities which the Spirit opens up to us and communicating the joy of the Gospel, daily and in every season of our life.”
What is the core change need for a truly renewed the Church?
Making sure that everything we do is implicitly and explicitly rooted in helping people know and share Jesus Christ. This involves Change – or conversion – on three levels:
- Personal: our own, personal encounter with Christ through which we become missionary disciples.
- Parish: Sharing with each other the life we have experienced in encountering Christ. This means taking responsibility for the building up of the parish as a community of faith, starting with the need to cooperate and collaborate as your parish prepares for and eventually becomes activated in the Renew My Church process within your grouping.
- Archdiocese: The Cardinal and his staff are responsible for providing vision, resources, and necessary support to lead people and communities to authentic relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church.
Wasn’t there a survey about Renew My Church in 2016? What happened with that?
Yes, there was a diocesan-wide survey open during Easter 2016. The survey helped determine our mission imperatives and priorities, as well as the discussions about which communities should be together in a grouping. Pastors received their individual parish survey results.
Isn’t this all about the priest shortage?
No. In fact, there is every reason to believe that once the RMC process is complete we will have sufficient number of priests to serve our parishes. We must also evaluate other key factors e.g., changing demographics, the conditions and affordability of our buildings and our human and financial resources.
Is Renew My Church all about structure, statistics, closing or merging parishes or schools? Seems like that’s all we are talking about.
No, Renew My Church is about truly renewing the Catholic communities of the archdiocese to take up the mission of Christ in a more intentional and effective way. The goal of the parish grouping initiative is to make sure that all parishes are properly resourced so that all parishioners grow as disciples who experience a personal encounter with Jesus Christ, become more involved and responsible in building up their faith communities, and inspires witness in the world.
Have other dioceses done this successfully?
The approach to our parish grouping process has been informed by the good practices and challenges other dioceses have experienced. Having learned from their experiences we have designed an approach that fits our needs. Specific dioceses the Archdiocese of Chicago has learned from include Boston, Pittsburgh, Brooklyn, New York, and Detroit.
How many parishes and schools are going to close? I heard in the news that 100 will be closed.
There is no pre-determined or targeted number of closures. While the archdiocese projects that there will be no more than 240 priests, and potentially fewer, available to serve in the role of pastor by the year 2030 – over 100 fewer pastors than today, this does not mean 100 parishes will close. In fact, already some of the new configurations call for a pastor to oversee multiple sites.
We are evaluating, with local input, how best to organize our parishes so that they are vibrant, vital, and sustainable for the long term, taking into consideration the reality of fewer pastors as well as other critical factors, such as demographic changes, facility needs, and Catholic presence in each geography.
How was the parish grouping process developed?
The approach was developed initially with an eye to the specific needs and challenges facing the parishes in the Archdiocese of Chicago, and yet at the same time taking advantage of the experiences in other dioceses, who took up the work of reconfiguration. In our consultation with these dioceses it became clear that the following aspects needed particular attention:
- Better transition preparation for priests
- Strong discernment and pastoral accompaniment skill training
- Intensive transitional support for any configuration changes
- New and proven ways to achieve parish vitality
Why are we restructuring, and potentially closing churches, before we renew our evangelization efforts?
There are several factors and changes that will lead to successful renewal of our Church in the Chicago area.
Creating vibrant parishes that exhibit the marks of parish vitality requires that we direct current and future resources to the critical ministries that will get us there.
To do that, we need to evaluate the business structures (how operate), buildings, facilities and financial requirements of existing parishes to assess where we can more prudently apply our resources to support and strengthen key ministry leadership roles, programs and activities.
What is a grouping?
A grouping is a set of parishes and schools that will together, build a renewed, vital, and sustainable Catholic presence for the good of all people in the grouping by first considering:
- How can we benefit from a more collaborative use of combined human and financial resources?
- What are some of the structural challenges we face, i.e., building conditions, shrinking populations, parking?
- How can we be more effective through collaboration?
Who is the Grouping Feedback & Discernment Team (GFDT) and what do they do?
The GFDT is a gathering of leaders from each parish/school in a grouping. These leaders are invited by their pastor to take on this role and are typically selected based on a level of prior experience in supporting the mission of the parish, their capacity to bring forth an open mind and heart as to what the Holy Spirit is asking of the community, and the ability to participate in the entire process, which spans several months.
The team meets for 3-4 months to discuss and prayerfully discern the ministerial and operational strengths and challenges of the parishes and schools within their particular grouping.
Eventually the GFDT will provide feedback and information about its grouping for the RMC leadership to review and present recommendations to the Cardinal so he can make final decisions regarding potential changes to school and parish structures.
How was our grouping determined (i.e., who is in our grouping)?
Groupings were determined through a consultative process in 2016 that included feedback and input from the local Vicar (auxiliary bishop), deans, pastors, parish councils and other lay leadership.
Groupings are also based on recommendations from the archdiocese taking into consideration geography (parishes and schools relatively close in proximity), commonalities, e.g., similar communities served, and relationships, e.g. occasionally attend Mass at more than one parish in the grouping.
How many groupings are there?
There are 98 groupings in the Archdiocese of Chicago. All parishes and schools have been assigned a grouping based on geography (parishes and schools relatively close in proximity), commonalities, e.g., similar communities served, and relationships, e.g. occasionally attend Mass at more than one parish in the grouping.
What are scenarios?
Scenarios are possibilities for new parish structures in the grouping that enable our mission imperatives of making disciples, building communities and inspiring witness.
- Ex. 1: Remain as is with no structural changes
- Ex. 2: Join together with another parish and all church buildings remain open
- Ex. 3: Join together with another parish and some church buildings close
- Ex. 4: Something else that the group develops
How are the initial scenarios developed?
The initial scenarios are developed using the foundational principles for viability, archdiocesan context (such as the number of pastors available for the future), and local data available to the archdiocese. Some major concerns looked at include, ministerial and spiritual needs of the parish, parishioner count and Mass attendance, balanced workloads for priests and school vitality and financial stability. The archdiocese’s planning office works with each pastor within a grouping and the vicar’s team to develop the initial scenarios.
How much impact will local feedback actually have in the parish grouping process?
Cardinal Cupich has made it clear that there will be no decisions on future grouping structures until he receives the local input. The process follows a discipline of giving feedback and offering alternatives to a draft of possible scenarios offered by the archdiocese.
While Cardinal Cupich has the responsibility to make final decisions, he has insisted that local communities have the duty to provide input to help him understand the situation and which possibilities will be best for the future.
To get the discussion going on the local level in a way that is attentive to the realities of the parishes involved, the archdiocese will offer potential scenarios during the process. However, these initial scenarios are intended to provoke discussion and do not represent the only possibilities.
The groupings teams can offer alternatives scenarios, and feedback will be submitted on all viable possibilities discussed.
What is the decision process and who is involved?
Cardinal Cupich has the responsibility to make final decisions, but he needs the input of local communities to understand which possibilities will be best for the future.
The archdiocese develops potential scenarios with and for the Grouping Feedback & Discernment Teams for feedback, as well as an invitation to offer alternatives scenarios.
Feedback on all scenarios, including viable alternatives identified by the Grouping Feedback & Discernment Team, are submitted and presented to an Executive Committee of the Commission for review. The Executive Committee forms a recommendation to be discussed by the full Commission. The Commission ensures consistency in approach across all groupings and, incorporating the feedback from the Grouping Feedback & Discernment Team, submits a recommendation to the Cardinal for final review and decision.
Who is on the Commission?
The Commission consists of both laity and clergy from each of the 6 geographical archdiocesan vicariates. It is one Commission used for all groupings to ensure consistency in approach across all groupings.
The Commission includes:
- Two lay representatives from each of the Archdiocese’s 6 vicariates (12 people)
- One representative from the Archdiocese’s Pastoral Council
- Two pastor representatives
- Three priest representatives:
- Cardinal’s Liaison for Renew My Church
- Vicar for Professional and Pastoral Development of Priests
- Priest Placement Board representative
- Vicar General
- Chief Operating Officer
- Each regional vicar participates in the review of his respective groupings
Who is on the Executive Committee of the Commission?
- Cardinal’s Liaison for Renew My Church
- Vicar General
- Chief Operating Officer
- Chief Strategy Officer
- Episcopal Vicar (Auxiliary Bishop) for each respective grouping
- Superintendent of Catholic Schools
Will every grouping experience closures or reconfigurations?
No, not every grouping will experience closures or reconfigurations. Some groupings will have significant challenges and will need to consider new configurations. Other groupings, however, may not require any configuration changes. The planning process will still apply to those groupings, but they will place more emphasis on planning for opportunities for greater collaboration and sharing for the good of the Church in that community.
What does it mean to combine or merge or unify parishes?
This means that 2 or more currently independent parishes unite as 1 parish organization, led by one pastor and staff team, with one set of financial statements, one budget, one Parish Council, one Finance Council.
A combined or unified parish may retain some or even all churches as active worship sites of the combined parish.
In most cases, parish combinations in Renew My Church will take the form of creating a new parish with a new name. This means that Parish A and Parish B would come together to form a new Parish C.
There will be some cases in which Parish A would close and become part of Parish B or the two sites could remain open but with a new name for the parish while retaining the name of the site Church.
What is a worship site?
Worship sites are the churches where Mass will continue to be celebrated regularly as part of the combined parish. Individual worship sites keep their names unless there is a unique reason to change.
An example could be “St. John the Baptist Church of All Saints parish.”
Why do we need structural changes like closings and mergers to Renew My Church?
As we have begun to see through the recent decisions concerning the first set of parish groupings, there is no one, single approach to how the Holy Spirit will lead our Archdiocese and parishes through renewal. Some parishes will see structural changes, and some will not.All parishes are being called to renewal, which will take shape in many forms. In those instances in which parish, church, and/or school structural changes do occur, there are many factors that lead to those thoughtful and forward-looking decisions (e.g., changing demographics, the conditions and affordability of our buildings and our resources). Any changes are intended to establish a more secure and sustainable foundation that make ministerial renewal and vitality possible. As a community of believers in the archdiocese, we pray for the wisdom and humility to be good stewards of what God provides today so that we may sow an abundant harvest for generations to come.
Once a decision has been made and shared, what will happen next?
An archdiocesan operations team will support parishes undergoing reorganization. Following the new parish pastor announcement, this team will work to schedule a meeting to introduce the support team and provide an overview of the transition schedule. This team will work with pastor and parish staff during the transition to help set up new parish structures including a staff leadership team, financial planning, and facilities management.
What does it mean to become one parish with multiple active worship sites?
Simply put, it means we will have one, unified parish with more than one church within that parish.
How does uniting multiple parishes into one help achieve our mission imperatives?
Uniting as one parish means bringing all that we are and hope to be together, as one Catholic community. Our gifts, our talents, our hopes, our prayers, our needs … they are all shared to the benefit and vitality of the entire, unified parish community led by one pastor. Mass and the sacraments will continue to be celebrated regularly at each individual church (future adjustments to mass and/or confession times are a possibility and will be clarified and communicated in advance of any changes taking effect).
The congregations of each location will now have the benefit of shared resources to work together in new ways to make disciples, build communities and inspire witness.
What does it mean to be an active worship site?
Worship sites are churches where regular Mass and sacraments will continue to be celebrated as part of the combined parish. Future adjustments to mass and/or confession times are a possibility and will be clarified and communicated in advance of any changes taking effect.
When multiple parishes unite, what becomes the name of the new parish?
This is an opportunity to look forward with a new beginning and, as such, step forward together with a new name that reflects the faith, hope and love of the entire community. Within guidelines that a new name honor a saint or sacred devotion that can be celebrated in the liturgical calendar, the new parish community discerns possibilities for the new name and presents its preferences to Cardinal Cupich who makes the final decision. The specific churches of the uniting parishes will keep the names they received at their dedication. Nonetheless, if there is a good reason, the good of the faithful allows the archbishop to grant a dispensation (that is, he may allow a change of name for a remaining church). If a change of name is desired, the community may request such a dispensation from Cardinal Cupich.
When parishes unite, what gets combined?
For parishes that are combining and unifying, some elements will necessarily merge, such as finance, operations, human resources and facilities management. Regarding parish ministries, how those groups work together and strengthen each other will be addressed by the pastor, with support from the Archdiocese ministry team, during integration of the new parish community.
What happens with the funds of each church?
As parishes unite to form one, new parish, all assets will come together under the new parish. The new parish will have one budget and one Finance Council to serve our entire community. A dedicated Archdiocesan Finance Manager will support the financial planning aspects of reorganizing a new parish, which will likely include setting up new bank accounts and financial accounting systems. The archdiocesan operations team will support the best practices in financial management, which can be found on our Financial Services page.
What happen with To Teach Who Christ Is (TTWCI) funds?
When multiple parishes are combined, their individual TTWCI accounts will be kept as separate accounts on the new parish balance sheet. The RMC team will review the original intent of the donors (via the case statement) to ensure that funds are applied to those original intentions. Honoring the original case statement to the greatest extent possible is a priority. If there are changing priorities with the new parish configuration or excess funds left over, the pastor will work with the parish finance council on any request to use the funds for anything other than its originally intended purposes.
What happens with parishes that are not joining with another parish? Are they unaffected?
For parishes that do not experience structural changes, such as closings or unifications, the next steps for those communities will focus on creating an intentional culture of evangelization to make disciples, build community, and inspire witness. All of our parishes, regardless of structure, must respond to the call of Jesus Christ to renew His Church, and will do so by: evangelizing and forming new and existing Catholics in the faith; increasing vocations; improving leadership development and support; increasing parish and Catholic school mission vitality; and, building solidarity.
What are the objectives of the Building the New Reality phase of the parish grouping process?
Grow and nourish a culture of evangelization in all aspects of parish vitality Drive ministerial leadership to focus our ministries and build strong pastoral plans Strengthen parish operating model (i.e. pastor / staff / lay leadership / volunteers)
What are the characteristics of a vibrant, life-giving parish?
There are seven distinct markers that characterize a parish that is not only thriving today, but also poised to nurture the souls of its faithful with a real encounter of Jesus Christ – one that equips them to go forth and share that encounter baptizing all nations as a community and through their individual states in life (personal vocations):
- Culture of evangelization
- Ongoing formation and discipleship
- Vibrant worship
- Meaningful community life
- Commitment to service
- Passion for vocations
- Faithful stewardship
What can parishes do now to build a stronger culture of evangelization?
- Form a dedicated Renew My Church prayer team (and ask your parish’s rosary and perpetual adoration teams) to pray for specific parishes in your grouping, for other groupings within the Archdiocese of Chicago, for newly formed parishes, and for the renewal of our local Church.
- Include the Renew My Church mission in your parish’s weekly prayers of the faithful.
- Foster intentional prayer habits and times of reflection with your teams (such as staff, ministries, parish and school leadership) and utilize various forms of prayer through liturgies and devotions (e.g., benediction, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and holy hours, communal recitation of the rosary or Divine Mercy chaplet).
- Align your Advent and Lenten Missions with the topics of spiritual renewal.
- As we approach a new liturgical year of the Gospel of Luke, read and discuss the book “Rejoicing in Mercy: A Prayer Commentary on the Gospel of Luke” by Father Lou Cameli with your parish staff, parish leaders, and leadership groups.
- Build community between grouping parish councils and parish staff by gathering for lunches, dinners, and discussions to get to know each other.
- Read and discuss “Divine Renovation” by Father James Mallon and use the archdiocesan-specific discussion guide with your parish staff, parish leaders, and leadership groups.
- Review your existing parish strategic plan with your core collaborators and integrate insights from the Renew My Church Summit into it.
- Share takeaways and Renew My Church Summit videos with a broader set of people in your parish community (councils, parish groups, school boards, etc.) to help them internalize the vision of Renew My Church.
- Host joint missions, devotions, retreats, and reconciliation services with parishes in your grouping.
- Schedule a brainstorming session with your parish leadership team on how to align your parish offerings with the goal of spiritual renewal.
How many priests will we have in the future?
The Archdiocese roughly projects 240 priests to be ready, willing, and able to serve as pastors by the year 2030 – at least 100 fewer pastors than today.
There will be more than 240 priests in the diocese, but not every priest will serve as pastor at a given time. Recently ordained priests need time to learn as associate pastors, some priests express that they do not feel called to the particular role of pastor, and other priests will be needed for particular ministry outside of parish ministry, e.g., seminary faculty, military service.
Why don’t we bring in priests from other countries to address the priest shortage?
First, the Cardinal has challenged us to look at how we foster vocations in our diocese and country, for unless we do so we will not be a healthy Church.
Additionally, in some of the countries from which priests have come to serve in the Archdiocese of Chicago, in particular Latin America, the number of Catholics per priest is much higher than in the United States. This means priests in those countries are already stretched to serve many people and would be stretched further to serve even more people if we bring priests from their countries to fill our decline in the number of priests.
Why doesn’t the Church move to married and women priests?
The challenges addressed by RMC cannot be reduced to a shortage of priests. If fact, we anticipate that after the reconfiguration we will have a sufficient number of priests to pastor our parishes. Moreover, such questions dealing with the discipline and doctrine of the Church universal always need to be addressed by all the bishops in union with the Holy Father.
It is also worth noting that other Christian faith communities with married and women clergy (e.g., Episcopalians) also struggle with declining church participation as well as the numbers of their clerical ranks.
What is the diocese doing to promote vocations to the priesthood and religious life?
Each and every one of us has a vocation to which we are called by Jesus Christ – some as mentors, teachers, caretakers; some to married life, religious life, or the priesthood … the vocations are as varied as there are souls. Yet, we also have responsibility for encouraging each new generation to step forward and consider a lifelong commitment to service in the Church. Most assuredly the Archdiocese has roles and efforts focused on this, but it is important to remember that increases in vocations are most inspired and encouraged by personal invitation and families and communities encouraging priestly vocations – foremost within the domestic church of the home.
86 percent of those to be ordained to the priesthood in 2018 were encouraged to do so by someone in their life - most frequently a parish priest, friend or another parishioner (according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate's annual survey).
Fr. John Kartje, Rector of Mundelein Seminary, and Fr. Tim Monahan, the Archdiocese’s Vocations Director, are leading the archdiocese’s efforts to strengthen vocations. A particular initiative is the Teaching Parish Program for seminarians. Seminarians are assigned to a teaching parish throughout their studies at Mundelein to participate in parish ministries and receive mentorship to be better prepared to serve in parish ministry when he is ordained. The seminarians’ presence and involvement also help to heighten vocations awareness in the parishes.