Currently one priest is assigned to administer and provide sacramental ministry for five sites, in Cut Bank, Shelby, Sunburst and Valier with a “Church of Occasional Worship” in Dupuyer. This area was recently served by two priests, and if, in the future, it is not feasible to assign an additional priest to serve in this area, the Planning Group wanted to ease the responsibility by moving one of the clustered churches to a different configuration. The new configuration would divide the area into three tiers with the Blackfeet Reservation as its own configuration.
The North tier would include Cut Bank, Shelby and Sunburst and these sites would be clustered with one priest. As financially feasible, there would be assistance from non-ordained to provide pastoral support for this area.
Prison ministry: It was noted that currently the ministry to the prison in Shelby is shared between the pastor in Shelby and the pastor in Conrad. It is envisioned that sharing the ministry between the two parishes would continue into the future.
The South tier would include Choteau, Augusta and Fairfield, with one priest serving the area. The Middle tier would include Conrad, Valier and Power/Dutton, exploring the possibility of scheduling weekend Mass on alternating weekends between Power and Dutton in an agreed upon pattern. The plan envisions maintaining the pastoral administrator in Dutton/Power as long as that is economically feasible. The prison ministry in Shelby is shared between the pastor in Shelby and the pastor in Conrad. Dupuyer would remain as it is, with the designation of a “Church of Occasional Worship” and with Mass celebrated in the Church at least once per year. Dupuyer would be included in the Conrad parish grouping.
Heart Butte and Browning currently are assigned two priests, a religious order Jesuit priest in the Heart Butte area and one diocesan priest in Browning. There are also three deacons in the Browning parish. This plan envisions no change in this configuration. While it is hoped that a Jesuit may be available to serve in Heart Butte when the current pastor is no longer available, if a Jesuit priest is no longer possible to serve in Heart Butte, the Browning parish will assume Heart Butte.
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.