Next Generation Priests Connect and Grow Through Fraternal Forums

We are living in a time of great renewal! There are so many wonderful programs and initiatives that offer promise and hope for the future of the Church. As Catholic Leadership Institute has served the Church over the past 30 years, we have learned that the implementation of even the best programs necessitate support structures to ensure the full potential of what they promise.

CLI’s research has shown how the leadership of the pastor directly correlates to the parish being a dynamic place of encounter. However, even for the best leader, this responsibility is increasingly daunting as he is only one man who only has so much time and energy. Desiring to create a network of support around the pastor, his team, and his parishioners, CLI designed one of our premier offerings - Next Generation Parish (NGP). This exciting initiative is a four-year program designed to help parishes envision the future and overcome obstacles as a comprehensive way to ensure a sustainable future full of hope.

NGP has several components, but one stands out as a particular aid to pastors – the Fraternal Forum, an experience that allows priests to come together on a regular basis to support one another, share best practices, offer guidance, and build overall fraternity together. Originally designed as an outgrowth of CLI’s signature program, Good Leaders, Good Shepherds, the Fraternal Forum became an incorporated part of NGP as a specific resource to help accompany priests through this multi-year process.

Come along as we explore how the Fraternal Forum allows priests to accompany one another.

Fraternal Forums

Imagine a space where pastors implementing Parish Priority Plans regularly gather to pray, learn about best practices, share their progress, voice their challenges, and learn that they are not alone in the journey.

That is exactly what Catholic Leadership Institute offers to pastors engaged in Next Generation Parish. Fraternal Forums are typically held in person on a quarterly basis but can also be held around specific times or events when priests might need more interaction, additional information, and all-around support from their brother priests engaged in the NGP process. Fraternal Forums also provide opportunities for NGP priests to have a refresher on key leadership skills and provide space and time to talk through issues with one another. This exclusive sharing among the priests allows them to counsel and advise each other, thus building a culture of true fraternity.

“I have found our Fraternal Forums to be great for connecting with other priests in my diocese who are also going through the NGP process,” said Fr. Tony Steinacker, pastor of Saints Peter and Paul Parish in Huntington, IN, located in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. “The content is always helpful, and it’s good to spend time with other priests to connect and to learn what they are doing at their own parishes.”

These Fraternal Forums are conducted throughout each stage of the planning and implementation process. They provide momentum to what is truly a challenging undertaking. Fraternal Forum topics are selected by the pastors.

Examples include:

  • Leadership Team Formation
  • Communication Best Practices, beyond the bulletin
  • Hospitality
  • Ministry Engagement (e.g., Music Ministry)
  • Re-engaging Parishioners
  • Missionary Discipleship

Pastors are encouraged to bring key staff and volunteers to Fraternal Forums. This provides an opportunity for laity to give and gain insights along with their clergy.

Fraternal Forums and Next Generation Parish

To date, Catholic Leadership Institute is offering Next Generation Parish to the Dioceses of Orlando, Jackson, Biloxi, Fort Wayne-South Bend, and Philadelphia. Fraternal Forums have proven to be key to forward progress. Best practices discovered within one diocese are shared across all participating dioceses.

One example is from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, where a pastor has rebranded his ushers as “ambassadors.” This reimaging and expanding of the usher role has been impactful during this time of pandemic when care for parishioners is paramount.

Fraternal Forums are truly a tangible format that provides pastors with competence and confidence in their planning efforts. Though the NGP process has many goals, building fraternity among the clergy is a natural outcome of these forums. At a time when many priests feel isolated and overwhelmed by responsibilities, Fraternal Forums have become needed respites and a way to further connect with their brother priests in the diocese.

To learn more about CLI’s Next Generation Parish experience, click here.

by Mike School

September 30, 2021

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