In his Spiritual Preface he says,
...we trust that the Holy Spirit, according to a divinely determined timing, enriches the Church (the people of God) with gifts that are needed for the good of Church at that particular moment.
If that has always been so, then it was true all during the time our current problems developed.
He then goes on to think an ponder on several topics. "No order of priority is intended." he says.
First topic, presumably randomly, is "Importance of the Celebration of Mass." He implies the drop in Mass attendance is due to the decline in the number of priests. That's clearly contrary to fact but serves to lay the groundwork for this.
Some people see the solution to lie within reach, if the Church would ordain properly prepared men and women, regardless of marital status. Some also suggest that the Church should invite priests who departed from active ministry to return to sacramental work. While I appreciate the deep and sincere conviction these people have for these solutions, I do not see these resolutions as something that can be decided locally nor do I see them to be in the offing for the universal Church. Consequently, although knowing that this might be offensive to some but not wanting to offend anyone, my work as Vicar for Planning does not rely on these remedies.
He puts this as if Church teaching and practice is something to apologize for and blame on Vatican bureaucrats. Maybe priests and staffers projecting that kind of attitude has more to do with the decline in Mass attendance than whether Sunday Mass is available at a convenient distance.
Second topic "Parish (what it is and isn’t)." It's the people, not the buildings. (When you hear something like that, it's usually only a matter of time until there's a building fund drive.)
Third topic "Parish Life and the Life of Parishioners." If parishes are the people, "would we be willing to do whatever it takes in order to afford" various innovations and enhancements to spread the Faith. (At least those aspects of the Faith that don't offend the "some people" referred to in the first topic.)
Fourth topic "Organizational Structure of the People (Parishes)." He talks of "coordination" to evangelize; it's unclear how what is to be said on who can be ordained will be coordinated. (As I've noted before, three St. Al's pastors in a row deny there's a need to coordinate the parish liturgy with what's in our Christian Formation texts, let alone the GIRM , so I'm not optimistic about coordination on a broader scale.)
At this point, take a look at our Archdiocese's parallel Faith In Our Future fundraising initiative's goals. Isn't there a potential problem having people pledge money for "Strengthening 211 Parishes" while the Vicar of Planning is pushing their consolidation?
Reflecting parish consolidations, he goes on to suggest our Archdiocese's current 16 districts be consolidated into eight or nine.
Fifth topic "Quantity of Priests and Religious."
In the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, however, the projections indicate that in about 15 years the number will begin to level off with approximately 100-120 archdiocesan priests serving in active ministry.
About half as many as the 211 parishes.
Sixth topic "New Forms of Parish Leadership." Permanent deacons and ecclesial ministers will do more.
Finally "Other thoughts." He anticipates people continuing to move to suburban and exurban Milwaukee, and growth in the number of Latinos, or is it Hispanics. The pastoral need for priests does not necessarily reflect the number of people. (Reading things like this always makes me think of the closing of most of the inner city parishes in the 1990s.)
The next issue of Thoughts and Ponderings will be on "discipleship, stewardship and planning for the future."