Last August, the Diocese of Peoria embarked on an eight-step parish restructuring process called, “G.I.F.T.” or Growing in Faith Together.
In the first step of the process the Catholic parishes including the communities of Geneseo, Atkinson, Annawan and Sheffield, making up Region 4, Cluster 4 have been engaged in a process of self-study and review of each of their four parishes.
In the Growing in Faith Together planning process all parishes in the diocese are involved in working with neighboring parishes to assess their strengths, identify their concerns, and explore how they can work together to better serve the people of God. The intended outcome is to suggest a future model of parish life from one or more of four possible models.
The models include linking of parishes which includes sharing a pastor and a common parish council; a merger of two or more parishes forming a new parish; a partnership where two or more parishes work closely together at times sharing staff and programs or in-services or finally a model where a team of priests serve three or more parishes with the support of deacons, sisters and lay ministers.
In the second of the eight steps, the members of Region 4, the cluster team made a preliminary recommendation that St. Patrick Parish in Sheffield link with Sacred Heart Parish in Annawan and the linked parish’s partner with St. Anthony in Atkinson and with St. Malachy Parish in Geneseo.
In the third step of Growing in Faith Together the preliminary recommendation from the cluster team was reviewed by the Diocesan Planning Commission.
Based on their study of the parish and cluster reports, the challenges identified and the goals of the Growing in Faith Together, as set forth by Bishop Daniel Jenky and the good of the diocese as a whole, they proposed a different model that included a merger of St. Patrick, Sheffield; Sacred Heart, Annawan and St. Anthony, Atkinson at the Atkinson site no later than July 2014.
They also proposed that an additional worship site for weekend liturgies and occasional weddings and funerals take place at Sacred Heart, Annawan and that the new parish community based in Atkinson be responsible for the Shrine in Hooppole.
They further recommended that there be a partnership between St. Malachy, Geneseo and the newly formed parish in Atkinson. Finally their initial recommendation included the closing of the church building in Sheffield no later than July 2014.
Their recommendations are based on the proximity of the parishes to each other, the sharing of resources, including time, talent and treasure.
In the fourth step of Growing in Faith Together, a final recommendation of the cluster team is made to the planning commission. After many hours of conversation and review, the local cluster team suggests that Sacred Heart and St Patrick merge into one new parish with a worship site in both Annawan and Sheffield with the Sacred Heart location designated as parish office.
Page 2 of 2 - The newly formed parish would then formally link with St Anthony. The newly formed parish and St. Anthony parish would be served by one priest, possibly with the assistance of a deacon, religious or lay person working closely with the newly formed parish. Both the new parish and St Anthony would partner with St Malachy to build and leverage their strengths, particularly in youth and adult formation, evangelization, and social justice, to create a more vibrant experience for all of the parishes in the cluster.
The Rev. Tony Lee, chairperson for the cluster team said, “Our response is step five of the process that will ultimately conclude with the decision of Bishop Jenky to be announced at the end of August. No final decisions have been made and all members of the cluster team ask the faithful of each parish to keep an open mind, enthusiastically continue the good work and support they are giving to their parish and pray that the Holy Spirit will help everyone, most especially our Bishop during the coming weeks and months.”
Members of the cluster team will be available at town hall meetings to further explain the final recommendation and answer questions.
A town hall for members of St. Anthony Parish, Atkinson will start at 6:30 p.m. May 8 in the parish hall.
The members of the Cluster Team are from St. Patrick, Sheffield: Ken Brummel, Gene Menard, Sara Osborn, Ann Sprowls and the Rev. Sebastian Tumusiime; from Sacred Heart, Annawan: Steve Clementz, Kathy Foes, Tara Gripp, Gene VanDeVoorde, and Tumusiime; from St. Anthony, Atkinson: Renee Hamer, Bonnie Obrecht, Terry Sears, Dave Van DeVelde and Lee; from St. Malachy, Geneseo, Leo Castelein, Audrey Honzel, Kevin Lillis, Cynthia Wells and the Rev. Mike Pakula.