What is Growing Disciples?

Growing Disciples is a pastoral planning process for the Catholic Diocese of Peoria to renew discipleship and enhance relationships with Jesus Christ in every corner of our region. The pastoral planning process will examine the current structure of parishes and schools in the diocese to evaluate how they can best meet the needs of the faithful and address challenges facing the Church today.

Specifically, Growing Disciples has three primary goals:

  • Enabling the faithful to go make disciples within a mission-driven, sustainable structure of parishes and schools.
  • Enhancing the vibrancy of our parishes, schools and ministries.
  • Increasing our support of the happiness, health and holiness of our priests.

Growing Disciples will also advance Bishop Tylka’s five foundations for the diocese and

  • Inspire discipleship in each baptized follower of Jesus.
  • Empower evangelization so as to share the saving name of Jesus.
  • Deepen our awareness of the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
  • Strengthen vocations.
  • Continue the legacy of Archbishop Fulton Sheen.

Bishop’s Tylka’s five foundations for the diocese

Growing Disciples Leadership

  • Core Team: The Growing Disciples Core Team works very closely with Bishop Tylka, advising him in the pastoral planning process and helping to disseminate information to the faithful of the Diocese of Peoria.
    • Tom Lenz, Leadership Consultant, Catholic Leadership Institute
    • Father Chase Hilgenbrinck, Vocation Director of Recruitment, Diocese of Peoria
    • Monsignor Mark Merdian, STL, Pastor of Ottawa Catholic Community, Diocese of Peoria
    • Father David Richardson, Episcopal Vicar for Junior Clergy and Pastor of St. Philomena, Peoria, Diocese of Peoria
    • Matt Faley, Chief of Mission, Diocese of Peoria
    • Amanda Connon, Director of Information Management, Diocese of Peoria
  • Pastoral Planning Commission: The Pastoral Planning Commission is comprised of 12 team members who represent each of the 12 vicariates of the Diocese of Peoria, and act as liaisons between their vicariate and the diocesan Core Team, advising the Core Team based on local-level information.
  • Parish Points of Contact and Key Parish Leaders: A Parish Point of Contact has been appointed within each parish of the diocese. Each of these team members has developed a team of five Key Parish Leaders within their parish to gather information and provide feedback and insights to the Pastoral Planning Commission and Core Team.

Addressing the Challenges Facing the Catholic Church Today

In every age and in every place, the Church must read and address the signs of the times. In central Illinois this includes the following challenges:

A changing region and diocese

Overall, the population of central Illinois has decreased over the last several decades. From 2010 to 2020, all but two of the 26 counties in the Diocese of Peoria declined in population, with three counties losing more than 10% of their inhabitants. Rural areas have been particularly affected, as have some towns and cities.

In addition, the population is aging, and young people are postponing marriage and having fewer children when they do marry.

National trends regarding religion

The total percentage of the U.S. population that identifies with a particular religion and observes religious practices continues to decline. Religious adherence is highest among Baby Boomers and drops with each subsequent generation. This trend is consistent in the Diocese of Peoria and has contributed to a steady decline in Mass attendance, Catholic school enrollment, and stewardship support of our parishes and schools.

To address these trends, recent popes have called for renewed evangelization efforts across the global Catholic Church.

Too few priests to staff 155 parishes

The Diocese of Peoria sprawls over 26 counties from the Iowa border to the Indiana border and consists of 155 parishes. With 124 priests currently in the diocese, many pastors must shepherd multiple parishes. This is not the best stewardship of their time and talents.

In addition, there are approximately 38 priests who will reach the age of retirement in the next 10 years and only 22 seminarians in formation to replace them.

The net result of these trends is that the Diocese of Peoria devotes a significant amount of time and resources to maintaining many parishes and schools that are declining in vibrancy. This reduces the time and resources available to respond to current ministry needs and grow our Church–locally and nationally–for the future. The pastoral plan of the diocese is intended to address these concerns.

Hope for the Future

Through ongoing prayer, listening, feedback, critical thinking, and sacrifice from the entire community, Growing Disciples will create a renewed pastoral plan for the Diocese of Peoria. This will result in vibrant parishes, schools, and ministries and happy, healthy and holy priests.

Vibrant parishes, schools, and ministries

By evaluating our current parish network, and identifying and making improvements, we can be better stewards of our resources and allow parishes to best serve their existing faithful while reaching out into the broader community. This will also allow us to move together from simply maintaining the structures we have toward a mission-focused network of vibrant and sustainable parishes, ministries, agencies and communities that can effectively spread the Good News of the Gospel to all.

Happy, healthy and holy priests

By developing a parish network that allows priests to be more present with their flocks, we will empower these priests to better fulfill their vocations, to provide an encounter with Jesus Christ, and to attract others to consider similar vocations.

Your Role in Growing Disciples

Bishop Tylka asks all the faithful of the Diocese of Peoria to join him in regular prayer for the success of this effort. You can use the Growing Disciples prayer and other opportunities throughout the process to call upon the Holy Spirit to help us discern the best possible ways to serve God and our neighbors.