Changing Pastors: A Resource for Pastoral Transitions

Sweetser, Thomas P., SJ and Mary Benet McKinney, OSB. Changing Pastors: A Resource for Pastoral Transitions. Kansas City, MO: Sheed and Ward, 1998.

Thomas Sweetser, SJ and Mary Benet McKinney, OSB write Changing Pastors to provide dioceses with a well-planned, comprehensive process of pastoral transition in parish communities. The model takes as its maxim, “if you don’t say good-bye, you can’t say hello.” Tested in three pilot dioceses lasting from September of one year through November of the next, the model begins with leadership at the diocesan level yet also invites the involvement of parish transition teams, outgoing pastors and prospective/incoming pastors. The model’s three rounds of workshops prepare outgoing pastors and parish transition team members to say good-bye; they instruct transition teams in how to prepare parish reports and ready parishioners for a pastor-less interim period; and they assist prospective pastors to discern new opportunities and incoming pastors to take up their new responsibilities. Key to the model is the recommendation that the parish incorporate a two- to four-week interim period between pastors, in order to put the past behind and look forward to what lies ahead. The authors clearly stress that the model is not meant for parishioners to name a pastor, but rather to provide a way by which all concerned can take ownership in the pastoral change. The book shows how the model can be used with other groups going through pastoral transition, and concludes with recommendations and insights from the original pilot project. The book contains handouts, agendas and other materials used during that project.