Archbishop Francis Leo meets Teresa Camilleri at his installation Mass in April. The archbishop is going to the people in the pews, clergy and more in developing the Archdiocese of Toronto’s new pastoral plan. Michael Swan

Leo taps pews for pastoral plan

  • November 8, 2023

Toronto Archbishop Francis Leo is all ears and wants to hear from clergy and lay parishioners as he helps craft the next pastoral plan for the Archdiocese of Toronto.

Unlike the pastoral renewal launching in the Diocese of Calgary, this budding effort in the Greater Toronto Area is independent of the ongoing global synodal process. Neil MacCarthy, the director of public relations and communications for the archdiocese, said this initiative was informed by Leo, who seeks to become more familiar with the spiritual and ministerial needs of the Catholic community he began serving in March. Archdiocesan leadership hopes this process yields a myriad of perspectives.

“There is going to be feedback from clergy, like pastors or associate pastors, sharing the priorities in their minds,” said MacCarthy. “You will have parishioners who attend Mass daily or weekly and others who attend less frequently, like monthly or a few times a year. Their perspectives are also very welcome. Young people, married couples, elderly members of the Catholic community and those involved in lay movements — we (will) get a cross-section here.”

The current pastoral plan for Canada’s largest archdiocese, begun a decade ago under Leo’s predecessor, Cardinal Thomas Collins, focused on five core directions: parish life, vocations, evangelization, Catholic outreach in justice and love, and the cathedral as a sign of our mission.

MacCarthy said the unfolding consultation also allows the community to assess what the previous pastoral blueprint accomplished. A link to the current pastoral plan appears on the survey’s introductory webpage.

One of the perennial criticisms expressed whenever a diocese, archdiocese or global Catholic entity commences a renewal is the goals are preordained and feedback submitted by lay people will only receive superficial consideration. MacCarthy said witnessing Leo for nearly eight months fills him with confidence that this pastoral undertaking has a listening shepherd at the helm.

“He has always talked about being connected to the people and listening to the voices of the people,” said MacCarthy. “He is doing that here. It is important to be a part of this process.”

What if congregants and clergy declare they want to take the archdiocese in a pastoral direction antithetical to the present course?

“I think we want to respect the feedback coming from people,” said MacCarthy. “You start to see themes that tend to come in when you do this consultation. Absolutely, we want to see people where they are at. In the past 10 years, our society and our culture have changed. We have also gone through an experience of a global pandemic. (In) places of worship — not just the Catholic community — there are some (people) who have felt comfortable enough to come back to Church, and others who have not come back. New people have joined the Church. How do we deal with the post-pandemic archdiocese and world we are all looking at now? How do we communicate with and evangelize people?”

Early in the new year, Leo and most likely members of the episcopal board, the council of priests and lay movements will analyze the responses. The new pastoral plan will be unveiled on a to-be-determined date in 2024. MacCarthy said the archdiocese could possibly consider publishing a supplemental document showcasing the survey’s key themes and trends.

Interested Catholics may visit by Dec. 15 to share three pivotal pastoral priorities for the next decade and how to institute these ideas at the parish and archdiocesan levels.

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