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many ways in reference to mission. Jesus commands the disciples to “go

and bear fruit that will remain” (Jn 15:16). The work of pastoral planning

ought to bear fruit and also involve effective pruning through planning,

organization, and implementation so that new life and growth can occur.

Jesus reminds us that the Father “takes away every branch . . . that does

not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more

fruit” (Jn 15:1-2). The status or effectiveness of our efforts in pastoral

planning ought to be visible because fruit is clearly visible. Pope Francis

invites us to orient all pastoral planning efforts to this end. “An evange-

lizing community is always concerned with fruit, because the Lord wants

her to be fruitful. It cares for the grain and does not grow impatient at the

weeds. The sower, when he sees weeds sprouting among the grain does

not grumble or overreact. He or she finds a way to let the word take flesh

in a particular situation and bear fruits of new life, however imperfect or

incomplete these may appear.”


A planning framework focused on fruitfulness suggests an approach

to pastoral ministry that discerns what will be fruitful, what needs to be

pruned, and how weeds will be separated from new growth. This means, at

the start of the process, identifying the overall fruit and outcomes that a

parish or diocese desires for its ministry and aligning programs and min-

istries to achieve this result. The desired results also must be connected

to the overall mission and ministry of the Church. For example, a parish

identifies through prayer that its evangelical priority and desired result is

to focus its ministry and resources on missionary discipleship. Together

with their pastor, the planning leadership team would need to discuss and

visualize what a parish with a mission and vision focused on missionary

discipleship would look like and how existing ministries could be changed

or strengthened to achieve this vision. Prayer would accompany all discus-

sion and planning. Then, to achieve this goal, specific objectives would be

identified and implemented through a logical process. Prayerful pruning

will occur as the pastor and leadership team make adjustments throughout

the planning process. We must always remember that we plant, water,

and fertilize, but the fruit ultimately depends on God’s grace and timing

(1 Cor 3:6-10).

Ultimately, this approach to ministry and pastoral planning requires

prayer, leadership, foresight, and discipline regarding the future direction

of the parish. It entails knowing the destination before setting off on the

journey. It requires thinking through and doing things in a prayerful way,