Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph Blue Ridge Deanery Study
The Blue Ridge deanery in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri is culturally diverse and economically challenged in the northern part of its boundaries and more affluent and suburban to the south. The area encompasses the communities of Raytown, Kansas City South, Grandview and Belton. Many of the parishes were experiencing membership loss, financial difficulties, and decreasing sacramental practice. The Diocese turned to Meitler which had conducted previous projects in the Diocese successfully. Meitler was contracted in December of 2019 to present recommendations to the Bishop regarding the seven parishes and one school in the deanery. Early in the process, the guidelines for the pandemic moved most of the activity to a virtual platform or a combination of in-person and virtual but following the guidelines for face masks and social distancing. The process included data study, interviews, parish meetings and work with the Diocesan Leadership Team, a Deanery Steering Committee and Parish Steering Committees. Several drafts of the plan resulted in a reorganization of the parishes into groupings of parishes and the consolidation of the deanery into other surrounding ones. Each parish or grouping of parishes also developed a strategic pastoral plan which focused on membership growth and evangelization to cultural populations in the area. A second site for Hispanic ministry was planned and a greater emphasis on outreach to those in need was formulated. One merger of parishes was recommended along with contingencies for others in the event that their growth plans were not effective. The process was completed in September of 2020 according to the Diocese’s nine-month timeline. The Diocese now has a template for future deanery studies which includes a vision and strategy, criteria for recommendations to parishes, and possible parish designations.
“I was most favorably impressed with Meitler’s painstaking analysis of the pertinent data as well as their patient and diligent engagement with diocesan and parochial stakeholders throughout this intense process. Mr. Kemmeter’s ability to respond to the difficult emotions that arise when parishes must confront unpleasant new realities and face hard decisions was marked by clarity and honesty leavened with pastoral sensitivity. Moreover, it was truly remarkable how Meitler was able to adapt the process to meet the utterly unforeseeable challenges created by the pandemic, such that we continued to move forward despite restrictions on gathering in person. The final strategic plan situated an arduous planning process in the service of renewal and evangelization, to see the sometimes dolorous events of institutional restructuring in the illuminating glow of Easter rebirth.”
– Fr. Charles N. Rowe, Vicar General – Vicar for Clergy, Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph, Missouri