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Introduction to Mullin Report and Purpose of Indicators

Introduction

In 2004, the Diocese of Springfield instituted a comprehensive planning process with the goal of determining how it can best serve the parishioners of Western Massachusetts in the coming decades. The need to undertake this planning initiative was based on important trends that will have a significant impact on both the Diocese and its parishes. These trends include the shifting of populations within Western Massachusetts, an anticipated decline in the number of pastors available to serve parishes, and financial considerations. The Diocese of Springfield requested a planning study of the Center for Economic Development (CED) that would provide a set of recommendations for configuring parishes in ways that would assist in addressing these trends. The main objective of the study conducted by CED was to provide an objective set of recommendations that would serve to inform discussions concerning the future configurations of parishes within the Diocese.

The recommendations for configuring parishes in this report are based on an analysis of a set of indicator that were determined by the Center for Economic Development in consultation with the Diocese of Springfield. These indicators were selected based on their ability to identify important characteristics of individual parishes, including parishioner attendance, the ration of baptisms to funerals, the ratio of pastors to community population, weekly offertory trends, and debt to the Diocese. The indicators were utilized to provide a rationale for the recommended configurations (no action, linking, merging, or suppression) of individual parishes. In addition, the present configurations of parishes (linkages) and the proximity of parishes were factors that influenced configuration recommendations. In an effort to limit disruption for current parishioners, present linkages among parishes were maintained wherever possible.

This report presents one possible set of configurations for parishes based on a limited set of indicators. The recommendations in this report are not intended to be viewed as a final set of recommendations for configuring parishes in the Diocese of Springfield. On the contrary, the recommendations in this report are intended to be viewed as a starting point for further discussions on how best to configure parishes to meet the needs of parishioners in Western Massachusetts. From the beginning of this planning process, the Diocese of Springfield has maintained that the difficult decisions regarding the future configuration of parishes can only be achieved through an open and honest dialogue among the three primary stakeholders in this planning process: the Diocese, pastors, and the parishioners of Western Massachusetts

Purpose of Indicators

The process utilized to determine the recommended status (no action, merge, link, or suppress) of each parish is guided by a set of indicators developed in consultation with the Diocese of Springfield. One of the conditions for this analysis set by the Diocese was the requirement that the recommended status of a parish not be determined solely on the basis of a single indicator. The rationale for this requirement is based on the belief that an individual indicator, viewed in isolation, cannot provide sufficient information for determining a parish's status. Instead, each parish's set of indicators should be viewed in their totality in order to provide a general rationale for assigning a recommended status. Numerous types of indicators were developed and considered for this analysis. Ultimately, the final set of indicators selected for the analysis were chosen based on the indicators' ability to support the institutional mission of the Diocese and address the current and future challenges the diocese is confronting including a continuing decline in parishioner numbers and an anticipated decline in the number of active priests to minister to parishes.

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