Implementation of the results of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s 2014 synod began Tuesday, Feb. 3, when 60 people from District 12, representing parishes from Milwaukee’s northwest side, met at St. Margaret Mary Parish for an overview of synod priorities and to focus on immediate concerns for parishes and clusters – evangelization and Sunday Mass.  Click to view a PDF.

It was the first of 10 district gatherings to be held during February at which participants will be guided in implementing the work of the synod at the parish and cluster levels.

As they will do at the remaining district gathering during February, Mark Kemmeter, director of the archdiocese’s office for planning and councils, and Michelle Nemer, associate director of that office, provided participants a statistical overview of the archdiocese, as well as their district. The data were culled from research done in the archdiocese last year by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University. (The entire report can be viewed at

Different look for archdiocese

“The 2020 Plan will reconfigure the diocese so that we will have 28 free-standing parishes and 171 parishes will be formed into 72 clusters of two to six parishes per cluster,” Kemmeter said. Each of the parishes and each of the clusters will have a pastor, though with a bigger cluster, the archbishop could assign an associate pastor.

Mission Statement

Living Our Call to Discipleship
and Evangelization

To proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ through his saving death and Resurrection by calling,
forming and sending disciples
to go and make new disciples.
As a people, we are called to encounter Jesus and grow as
disciples through the sacramental
life of the church.

The 2020 Plan is a reference to the document, “Parishes and Pastoral Leadership 2020,” the result of consultation among priests, deacons, parish directors, parish staffs and councils, and approved by Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki in 2012, that guides decisions about parishes, clusters and use of personnel. 

In approving the plan, Archbishop Listecki wrote, “Now that a long-term strategy has been determined for the archdiocese, it is extremely important for each parish and cluster to become actively involved in planning for the future. Each pastor or parish director in consultation with the parish pastoral council is charged with the responsibility for these planning efforts. The full implementation of the plan will require the collaborative efforts of everyone in the archdiocese.”

Clusters are formed when a priest retires, his term ends, a change in assignment, or, Kemmeter said, “We’re beginning to have the phenomenon that parishes themselves are requesting to become a cluster.”

He noted that with 64 priests eligible to retire during the next five years, the archdiocese will continue to rely heavily upon retired priests as they serve as help-outs, celebrate sacraments when pastors go on vacation or when a priest is ill. 

“We are very soon going to be at a historic point in the diocese; we are going to have more retired priests than we have priests in active ministry,” Kemmeter said.

Participants were provided with cluster plan organization options for, among other things, administrative services, Catholic schools, pastoral councils and funding for shared ministers and ministries that they were encouraged to discuss with the parishes in their clusters. Parishes and their clusters are responsible for implementation of synod priorities and development of strategies on how they will work together.   

Rooted in the mission

Randy Nohl, director for Archdiocesan Synod implementation, began his explanation of the process for implementing the synod initiatives by introducing the new archdiocesan mission statement. (See box.)

“We will keep going back to the mission statement,” he said. “Are we proclaiming Christ? Are we making disciples? Are we doing it through the sacramental life of the church? That’s what guides us in everything we do and every strategy in implementing the synod.”

Nohl defined the characteristics of a disciple as being committed to prayer and daily reflection of Scripture; a participant in Mass and the sacrament of reconciliation; one committed to service and outreach; accountable to their parish by giving of their time, talent and treasure.

In implementing synod initiatives, he said parish leaders need to ask, “How are we helping people to know their faith better? To integrate their faith into their daily lives, into communities? And are we putting it into practice?” 

Calling it “the big vision,” Nohl said growth in intentional discipleship was fulfillment of a goal that Archbishop Listecki laid out the day he was appointed archbishop of Milwaukee.

“Forming and growing a Catholic identity, going out to others – evangelization; and using the gifts that we have – stewardship,” Nohl said. “And getting others to do that as well.”

Foundation for implementation

He said mission and leadership were the foundation upon which synod implementation would be built. 

“What is our mission? What are we called to do? How do we do that with good leaders?” Nohl said, noting that the archdiocese would “take the lead” in this area, helping parishes develop leadership.

Regarding evangelization and Sunday Mass, he said questions that needed to be asked – and answered – are, “How are we equipping the people who are coming to Mass to grow in their faith? How are we reaching out to those who aren’t there?”

Among the areas in which parishes and clusters are expected to address are:

  • Become a more evangelizing and welcoming parish by paying attention to music, message and ministries at Sunday Mass;
  • Develop or use resources to help people of all ages have a deeper knowledge and appreciation of the Mass;
  • Form individuals in the essentials of the Catholic faith;
  • Assist family in strengthening and practicing their Catholic identity;
  • Increase Mass attendance.

Noting that stewardship, human concerns, religious education are all integral to this process, Nohl said, “Whatever you do must focus on the whole parish, not just one element of the parish.”

Parishes and clusters have until Sept. 14 to submit strategies as to how they will implement initiatives regarding Mass and evangelization.