There are four priests and one retired priest currently serving the Bozeman Deanery. The shape of the Deanery and the distances it covers create some challenges around placement of our priests. After studying the areas of anticipated population growth, the current placement of our priests, and the projections for the near future, the Bozeman Deanery Planning Group recommends the following:
That the Bozeman Deanery be served by no fewer than four priests in the future. The Gallatin Valley is projected to be an area of growth and there is a possibility that four priests may not be sufficient to serve this population as the growth in the area translates to growth in parish populations. The yearly parish census and sustainability study will track the growth in the parish communities especially in this area.
There is concern for the future in the West Yellowstone and Big Sky areas. These parishes are currently served by a retired priest. In the future a plan is needed to provide sacramental ministry in these areas. There is interest from the Deanery Planning Group to explore ways to make the Bozeman area a more attractive area for priests at or close to retirement age who might want to continue their service as sacramental ministers for parish communities. Currently there is no housing provided for a retired priest in the area and that is a way to make this area more attractive to a retiring priest. The Deanery understands that it would need to commit to this project and craft a plan to provide housing for a senior priest to make this happen. Transportation to and from the mission church is currently provided by parishioners and this would need to continue, especially during the winter months, if a retired priest continues to serve there. There is great hope for a consistent presence for sacramental ministry in these areas.
It is recommended that Bozeman maintain two priests to serve the two sites in that city. Holy Rosary Parish is the largest parish in the Deanery and is at the conclusion of a major building project. Resurrection Parish is likewise planning for a major building project and provides a unique ministry to the university population in Bozeman.
Also, part of the Bozeman plan would change the designation of Valley of Flowers Mission in Belgrade from mission to parish status and requests that the pastor and parish initiate a process for a new parish name, recommending three possibilities to the Bishop for his final selection and approval in accord with Canon Law. The rationale for this change is that the population growth is projected to be much accelerated in the Belgrade area, which is confirmed by the parish demographics. It is not anticipated at this time that the parish status of Holy Family in Three Forks be changed. The Belgrade and Three Forks parishes would maintain a priest to serve both areas.
The current projection is that the diocese continue to plan for a priestly presence in the White Sulphur Springs/Harlowton area. There was some conversation that these areas may need to be served from the Townsend parish if financial support for a resident priest at Harlowton is insufficient. All sites in this Deanery and throughout the Diocese will be part of a yearly, ongoing process to study their sustainability.
Some of the aspects of this study will include a yearly look at Parish Mass attendance, annual offertory income, debt retirement (if any), parish plant maintenance, and parish and diocesan financial obligations met. It will also consider parish vitality and engagement. This study will be completed each year and any adjustments needed to the plan will follow.