A look at the Archdiocesan Strategic Planning of Resources team’s work in realising the local Church’s pastoral vision
Many Catholics would have heard of Archbishop William Goh’s archdiocesan pastoral vision and mission of “Building an Evangelical and Missionary Church” during his episcopal ordination.
According to Msgr Philip Heng, Vicar General of Administration and Finance, there was no lack of enthusiasm from priests, Religious, Catholic organisations, lay leaders, volunteers and the like, who wanted to be part of this “history making” time of the archdiocese.
However, after six months or so after the launch, reality set in. Msgr Heng told CatholicNews he encountered the constant challenge of the archdiocese not having sufficient resources – funds, land, buildings and personnel – to realise the archbishop’s vision.
Clearly, a strategy was needed for the use and increase of Church resources for the short, middle and long terms. The archbishop’s 10-year pastoral plan (of which three years have gone by) must be supported and strengthened by coordinated strategic analyses, inclusive consultations and comprehensive plans, said Msgr Heng.
However, to put this in place was a complex and daunting task, needing time and the right people in the right positions.
With the approval of the archbishop, around November 2013, Msgr Heng began the process of collating information on the land and buildings of the archdiocese.
He, together with ALPS (Archdiocesan Land & Properties Singapore), came up with an overview of the land and buildings owned by the archdiocese. The archbishop was then able to concretise his archdiocesan pastoral vision and mission through putting in place and prioritising the use of the archdiocese’s limited resources.
One of the biggest and ongoing challenges the archdiocese faces is the lack of funds, said Msgr Heng. At present, parishes contribute 15 percent of their Sunday collections to the archdiocese, and retain the rest for their own use.
Under the provisions of canon law, any further money from the parishes going to the archdiocese is at the option of the individual parish priest acting in consultation with the parish pastoral and finance councils.
The 15 percent contribution by parishes has been insufficient to support the many archdiocesan organisations resulting in limited budgets for them, and operating deficits at the archdiocese level.
In deficit: Archbishop’s Fund
This being the reality, the operating and capital expenditure of the archdiocese is funded by the Archbishop’s Fund. The source of this fund comes solely from the 31 parishes’ contribution of 15 percent of their weekend “offertory” collections. The amount received is grossly insufficient.
The budgets of key archdiocesan organisations such as Office for the New Evangelisation (ONE), Office for Young People (OYP) and Catholic Theological Institute of Singapore (CTIS) exceed the Archbishop’s Fund.
There was a deficit of $2 million in 2015, and this deficit can only increase further; it is close to $4 million for 2016, as the pastoral programmes in the archdiocese expand and the capital expenditure increases.
Around April 2014, Msgr Heng presented to the presbyterium an overview of the situation regarding the archdiocese’s land and properties, as well as the archdiocesan pastoral plans. Later, presentations were made to the Religious, different archdiocesan organisations and lay leaders of the archdiocese. These were initial efforts to engage the whole archdiocese on the archbishop’s pastoral plans.
It was clear that there was a need to set up an archdiocesan “think tank” team to organise and drive this archdiocesan “strategy”. This led to the formation of the Archdiocesan Strategic Planning of Resources (ASPR) team.
ASPR members works closely as a team, which is coordinated by Msgr Heng and operates closely with the AFC (Archdiocesan Finance Commission), ALPS, parishes and the like.
ASPR’s main purpose is to support, provide and build the needed resources and structures to realise the pastoral vision and mission of the archdiocese strategically. In other words, the ASPR team has to work closely with AFC, ALPS, Catholic Foundation, and the Chancery (for human resource matters).
For the past year, ASPR came up with an Archdiocesan Financial Framework that is robust and professional, said Msgr Heng. This structure does not replace, but builds upon the existing AFC.
Challenges and consolations
The experience of initiating and developing ASPR to serve the archbishop’s pastoral vision has been filled with many challenges and consolations. The first and foremost challenge requires a shift of paradigm in the understanding of what it means to be “Church”, said Msgr Heng.
Catholics need to change their mentality of Church being “me and my parish” to the broader “one archdiocesan Church”, he said, adding that ASPR is aware that this would take time, “perhaps years”.
Unless, this “conversion” is pervasive, Catholics will not be inclined to participate fully in ASPR’s archdiocesan projects. Moreover, donations would also be slow and small, and complaints of “donor fatigue” would continue, said Msgr Heng.
However, the recent fundraising dinner for Church of the Transfiguration was truly uplifting as Catholics from all over the archdiocese laboured selflessly for this archdiocesan project. This too was evident in the recent cathedral gala fundraising dinner, said Msgr Heng.
The big challenge for ASPR is how to appeal for short-term funds when the “bigger” archdiocesan needs and plans are merely conceptual, he added. The archbishop’s pastoral vision and mission must be translated into concrete figures and realistic options. However, the figures and information that ASPR, AFC and ALPS need are sometimes beyond the archdiocese’s control.
According to Msgr Heng, among other factors, they have to seek approval from government authorities such as the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), Singapore Land Authority (SLA), National Heritage Board and Preservation of Sites and Monuments.
Furthermore, the archbishop does not make decisions unilaterally and there are ongoing consultations with the archbishop’s Consultors and Senate of Priests (who only meet monthly) before any firm decisions can be made.
ASPR recently launched the archdiocesan “Update and Survey” at the beginning of Lent to have a better sense of how the Catholics in the archdiocese are distributed over the 31 parishes, and also to gather basic data of parishioners for parish priests’ pastoral outreach.
Simultaneous to this quantitative survey project is the qualitative ethnographic survey to get a better grasp of “what it is to be a Catholic” in the archdiocese today.
According to Msgr Heng, all this information would be helpful pastorally not only to parishes, but also for the different archdiocesan pastoral programmes.
“Archbishop William Goh and different intercessory groups continue to storm heaven for God’s blessings and graces to fulfil God’s will for our archdiocese to become an evangelising and mission-oriented Church,” said Msgr Heng. “Let us all continue to grow in our greater sense of our ‘one archdiocese!’”