A new family model for Catholic parishes in the Diocese of Buffalo to work closer together has been announced.
Following consultation with clergy and laity, the Diocese’s 161 parishes will be grouped into 36 Families of Parishes. Of the 36 families, six will begin a pilot-phase implementation of the families model in January.
It’s all part of the Diocese’s “Road to Renewal” effort, which hopes to reinvigorate the Catholic faith, fully optimize parish and diocesan resources and increase the reach and impact of ministries throughout Western New York.
In Allegany County, Our Lady of the Angels in Cuba, St. Patrick in Belfast and St. Patrick in Fillmore make up Family No. 2 and will be a part of phase one.
Family No. 1 consists of five other parishes serving most of Allegany County — St. Mary in Bolivar, Holy Family in Belmont, Immaculate Conception in Wellsville, SS. Brenden and Jude in Alfred and St. Mary in Canasaraga — and Blessed Sacrament in Hornell, the only Steuben County parish in the Diocese of Buffalo. They will also be a part of phase two.
“The pilot introduction of the Family of Parishes model represents an important milestone on our Road to Renewal,” explained Bishop Michael W. Fisher.
A Parish Model Task Force and a Diocesan Renewal Task Force were started more than a year ago with the effort to look at best practices regionally and nationally. Members learned how other dioceses facing similar challenges of diminished financial resources and reduced church and school attendance have successfully continued operating in their regions.
The renewal task force is a collaboration of clergy and laity who studied, gathered input and documented recommendations for the diocese. After an extensive process of collaboration with clergy, parish leaders and educators, it was determined that renewal could be accomplished by bringing parishes together into closer collaboration for a larger good known as “Families of Parishes.”
This model of grouping parishes together to share resources is forming the foundation for similar efforts across the nation.
Fisher said the insights the task force gained from the pastors, deacons, lay leaders, educators and parishioners across the region have informed this decision. He said the role of Catholic faith and ministry is essential in addressing so many needs across Western New York, including educating younger generations.
“In combining our resources and refocusing our efforts at the parish level, I am confident that we can be even more impactful in the years ahead in fulfilling our mandate to spread Christ’s Gospel and fulfill our essential mandate of service,” the bishop said.
Input gathering included 26 listening sessions with more than 800 participants, an online survey with more than 1,300 contributors and many meetings, emails and letters, a draft recommendation for parish families was presented to diocesan leaders in early December 2020.
In March, the Rev. Bryan Zielenieski, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Swormville, was named the episcopal vicar for renewal and development and tasked to lead the renewal effort by Fisher.
“We have had tremendous consultation and collaboration for the Renewal effort,” Zielenieski said. “The family model of parishes intent is truly an intentional discipleship that will bring the best practices and resources to our parish families by the clergy and laity working together. We will learn to minister together to increase our impact on our parishioners with a focus on Jesus.”
Following the six pilot families, phase one includes 10 families that will begin working together in October 2022. Phase two with 11 families is scheduled to begin in October 2023 and phase three with nine families is slated to begin in October 2024.
For the full list of the 36 families of parishes, as well as the six pilot families, visit www.roadtorenewal.org/families.