Diocese trains rural leaders for leadership in service and social justice
Almost 78% of the population within the St. Cloud Diocese in Minnesota lives within rural areas. Recognizing the many issues affecting the rural faith communities in the Diocese (such as fewer priests and pastoral leaders, shrinking towns, aging populations, access issues to services and resources, the growing needs of immigration and multicultural communities, and declining economic activity), we launched The Rural Life Leadership Development Initiative. The initiative provided a cohort model year-long training for select leaders in rural parishes around Catholic Social Teaching, discernment, servant leadership, evangelization, meeting skills, and recruitment. Following the training series, listening sessions were conducted in each parish community to engage the leaders-in-training in community conversations with other leaders, marginalized persons, and civic and business leaders focused on community needs. Using this information, the Diocese developed a strategic plan for parish social ministry that these newly trained leaders could use in order to better serve the unique needs or gaps within their communities.
Over 30 parishes were part of five cohorts that went through the process. Most parishes’ ministries are still going strong now, even as they have adapted to changing needs.