Attended by members of the parish community and clergy, the town hall meetings were held at churches in Hudson, Union, Bergen, and Essex.
The cardinal shared his broad pastoral vision that maps out the future of the archdiocese in six pillars: Protection of the Faithful; Accountability, Transparency and Communication; Archdiocesan Pastoral Planning; Lifelong Faith Formation and Education; Ongoing Formation/Support of Clergy; and Active Engagement of the Laity. The plan highlights a positive path forward while simultaneously addressing past and present challenges.
Forward in Faith Together is the culmination of nearly three years of planning and is a foundation for healing that addresses a lack of confidence in the Church. “Great damage has been done. Not only have people lost their innocence, they have lost God,” Cardinal Tobin said. “I believe (this vision) is a positive way forward to regain trust and confidence of people.”
Protection of the Faithful includes reinforcing protections already in place and creating new training and reporting programs. The archdiocese will continue to apply a just Independent Victims Compensation Program and support survivors of clergy sexual abuse of minors.
Accountability, Transparency and Communication includes widening communications channels to and from parishes and the chancery. “How well do we listen to and communicate with parishes?” Cardinal Tobin asked. He also encouraged stewardship and a feeling of co-responsibility.
In Archdiocesan Pastoral Planning, the cardinal aims to empower and guide each parish to adopt the archdiocesan plan according to the needs of their own parish communities. “We are trying to understand what is working in parishes,” Cardinal Tobin stated, “and continue to form partnerships with parishes that are flourishing.”
Creating and supporting initiatives for the faithful to flourish in the spiritual, intellectual and pastoral aspects of their lives is highlighted in Lifelong Faith Formation and Education. “Most people believe in Catholic education for children. And then what?” Cardinal Tobin asked. “Our formation doesn’t stop with our confirmation. Formation in the faith and encounter with Christ is a beautiful lifelong journey.”
Strengthening the bonds of unity among bishops, priests and deacons is key in Ongoing Formation/Support of Clergy. Cardinal Tobin highlighted this summer’s Convocation of Priests as a step in the right direction.
The final pillar, Active Engagement of the Laity, encourages greater input from and participation by parishioners.
Following an explanation of his vision, Cardinal Tobin fielded questions from the audience.
For more information, visit forward.rcan.org.