General Mission Goals of the USCCB
The Gospel of Christ and the teachings of his Church guide the work of the USCCB. The work of the Conference is rooted in three general mission goals and organized into three key areas of responsibility.
- To act collaboratively and consistently on vital issues confronting the Church and society
- To foster communion with the Church in other nations, within the Church universal, under the leadership of its supreme pastor, the Roman Pontiff
- To offer appropriate assistance to each bishop in fulfilling his particular ministry in the local Church
2017-2020 Conference-wide Priority Initiatives
In addition to these long-term mission goals, the bishops choose four to five priority goals for each planning cycle. The priority goals for the 2017-2020 planning cycle are as follows:
- Evangelization: Open wide the doors to Christ through missionary discipleship and personal encounter.
- Family and marriage: Encourage and heal families; inspire Catholics to embrace the sacrament of matrimony.
- Human life and dignity: Uphold the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death with special concern for the poor and vulnerable.
- Vocations and ongoing formation: Encourage vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life, and provide meaningful ongoing formation to clergy, religious and lay ministers.
- Religious freedom: Promote and defend the freedom to serve, witness and worship, in the U.S. and abroad.
Three Key Areas of Responsibility
To accomplish both the general mission goals and priority goals for a given planning cycle, the bishops choose to focus their attention and work on a number of mission responsibilities, mission relationships, and administrative tasks
1. Mission Responsibilities (Cf. Apostolos suos, no. 15.)
Faith and morals
Marriage and family life
Vocations and church ministries
Catholic education/faith formation
Defense of human life and human rights, promotion of human development and world peace
Prayer and worship
Mission Responsibilities—Short Term
At any time, the bishops may be asked to address and respond to a variety of issues and concerns that affect the life of the Church both within the church community and within contemporary society. Such issues may be specific and transitory and may require a limited commitment of time and resources. Their goals are short-term and will be addressed, implemented, and evaluated in a five-year cycle.
2. Mission Relationships (Cf. Apostolos suos, no. 15.)
With the Holy See
With bishops and dioceses
With episcopal conferences
With national catholic organizations and associations of the christian faithful
With civil authorities and other groups
3. Management and Administration
This third area comprises responsibilities that support the mission responsibilities and relationships.
HOW THE BISHOPS CHOOSE TO ACCOMPLISH THIS WORK
Based on the goals of the USCCB, the bishops address and respond to a variety of issues and concerns that affect the life of the Church both within the church community and within contemporary society.
These issues and concerns:
- Respond to or address significant present needs or responsibilities for the Church in the United States or significant concerns or mandates of the Holy See
- Respond to or address specific responsibilities that are national in scope
- Require the active leadership of the bishops
Significant issues or responsibilities are those that impact a sizable number of bishops and/or directly affect a number of dioceses. Significant issues typically require a collective and unified response or approach from the episcopal conference.
Each standing committee of the Conference is given a mandate based on the goals of the USCCB with corresponding responsibilities and relationships to address how the committee fulfills its mission in relationship to the overall goals of the USCCB. The bishops exercise leadership and undertake specific issues, responsibilities, and initiatives through various organizational structures, including standing committees and permanent and ad hoc work groups, and with the collaboration and assistance of staff and consultants. They also draw on the regional structure and the provinces and collaborate with national Catholic organizations, movements, and associations.
1. Through Conference Committees and Staff
In carrying out their respective mandates, committees and work groups strive to respond to the mission of the Conference as a total body. In addressing or responding to these issues and initiatives, the bishops will:
Utilize a national approach coupled with local implementation or engagement
Expect significant and intentional collaboration and cooperation among the USCCB committees and offices, and invite similar collaboration and cooperation with dioceses and national organizations
Avoid duplication of efforts already in process or completed
Develop complete plans and budgets (including the sources of funding) for both the priority initiatives and the ongoing work and responsibilities
- Manage the work of the Conference so that unexpected priorities can be adequately addressed
2. Through Regional Activities and Through Relationships with National Organizations, Movements, and Associations
At times, the bishops may wish to exercise their pastoral ministry and leadership on a national level by working collaboratively with the Episcopal regions and provinces or with national Catholic organizations, movements, and associations. Through this collaboration the bishops seek to increase the effectiveness and extension of the mission by empowering more groups to act by and with the bishops. This approach is helpful when there is an initiative that is best accomplished by the bishops' marshalling and empowering the resources and energies of a regional effort, a national group, or groups that are closely associated with the Conference and with one another; or where the bishops believe that the work is best accomplished through the means of a national organization or movement rather than through direct leadership and involvement by the USCCB.
CRITERIA FOR DEVELOPING PLANS AND PROGRAMS
The following criteria are parameters to be used in developing the annual plans of the USCCB:
The planned activity or program is the result of a mandate/request from the Holy See or from the Conference where the bishops as a body wish to exercise active leadership
The planned activity or program is fully in accord with mandate of the committee or workgroup as it was given by the Conference.
The planned activity or program belongs appropriately to the domain of Conference work (that is, it is significant and national in scope where the bishops wish to exercise leadership), as opposed to the purview of dioceses/eparchies or parishes or other Catholic organizations.
The planned activity or program is not redundant or duplicative of activities of other committees and offices within the Conference.
The planned activity or program, where appropriate, involves the collaboration of other committees and offices.
The planned activity or program is something that would be better carried out by the Conference than through outsourcing to another organization.
A complete budget for the planned activity or program has been developed, including the way in which the activity or program will be funded.
A strategy to determine the effectiveness of this program or activity has been developed.
(USCCB, Report from the Task Force on Activities and Resources, 16-17, no. B6, approved November 2004).
ASSESSING THE EFFECTIVENESS OF THE WORK
While acknowledging that not all work that the bishops undertake can be specifically measured, given the investment of time, talent, and financial resources at the national level, the bishops strive as much as possible to develop measurable outcomes and effectiveness assessments:
- If a short-term action, can it be successfully addressed and implemented within a given number of years?
- If a long-term response, involving a significant issue, can it be accomplished over a span of years?