In September 2011, the Diocese of London in Ontario, Canada released the daunting findings from a study they commissioned regarding the changes in today’s society and how these changes have impacted the way people live their faith on a daily basis. Decreased population, globalization, changing technology trends, declining number of priests as well as attendees at Sunday mass were among the trends identified.

In response to this, the Diocese of London, Canada, under the direction of Bishop Ronald P. Fabbro, C.S.B., chose to use the data from the report to plan, prepare, and embrace the future. “The challenges before us are huge. We need to be courageous in addressing them, so that we can more effectively carry on the mission of evangelization which Jesus has entrusted to us,” wrote Bishop Fabbro in his letter to the diocese in 2011. By creating new ways of doing things, the diocese will be strengthened and will flourish. But how?

In early 2014, the diocese contacted Catholic Leadership Institute to help develop a new model of parish organization as well as provide leadership training for the priests to help make this initiative successful.

The new model is called a “Family of Parishes” which will group three to five parishes together under the leadership of a pastor and pastoral team of ministers. Bishop Fabbro wrote, “Like a family they will, hopefully, be characterized by close cooperation and sharing in realizing the common goal of being mission-driven.”

Catholic Leadership Institute began Good Leaders, Good Shepherds in July 2016 to help prepare priests for their leadership role of a “Family of Parishes.” Fr. Alan Dufraimont, a pastor of four separate parishes, shares about the benefits of Catholic Leadership Institute training, “For me personally, it has strengthened my resolve in leadership by teaching me better skills to lead, deal with conflict and form a Parish Team, not just a group to work with. Thus, it helps our Parishes as we move from four parishes to one Family of Parishes.”

Twenty-six priests graduated from Good Leaders, Good Shepherds in August. The Good Leaders, Good Shepherds program was customized to meet the needs of the priests to develop their self-leadership skills followed by leading an organization. Priests received practical tools, such as building teams, and crafting a vision at a very relevant point in the diocese’s history. “I find that the Good Leaders, Good Shepherds program has prepared me to work towards setting a common mutual vision and how to set SMART goals towards that vision,” said Rev. Daniel Santos, Parochial Vicar of St. Michael’s Parish. “The value of being able to sponsor and charter teams will be a saving grace when working with a variety of ministries and gifts, finally just being able to see how Christ, the Universal Church, and the particular Church’s mission will be a central tenant to our common vision.”

The Catholic Leadership Institute has offered me great wisdom in creating pastoral priorities and SMART goals that are achievable and realistic, which gives me more zeal and encouragement in ministry.”

Over the fifteen months of training, the Good Leaders, Good Shepherds program not only taught leadership skills, but also greatly contributed to priestly fraternity. The unity created among the priests allowed relationships to deepen and fostered the sharing of knowledge and best practice. “I came into the Diocese of London 13 years ago, and I didn’t have much opportunity to date to know some of the priests,” said Fr. Nicholas N. Maurao Iko, O.F.M., a priest chaplain and pastor of St. Alphonsus. “This has given me the chance to know some of them in person. As a religious priest from the order of St. Francis Assisi ‘OFM’, I found it very useful to me personally in terms of community life that sometimes I am missing.”

“The Catholic Leadership Institute has offered me great wisdom in creating pastoral priorities and SMART goals that are achievable and realistic, which gives me more zeal and encouragement in ministry,” said Fr. Patrick Beneteau, Director of Vocations and Seminarians. The Diocese of London, accompanied by the world class training of Catholic Leadership Institute, is equipped to embrace a future full of hope. The priests have the confidence to lead a “Family of Parishes” knowing that they don’t have to do everything on their own. They are energized to create vibrant faith communities to carry out the mission of Jesus Christ. We look forward to witnessing the great work these graduates will do for our Church and to our continued work with them accompanying them with their plan to revitalize the parishes in the diocese. Thank you to everyone who has supported this transformative program!

by Catholic Leadership Institute

January 16, 2018

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