The Planning Group for the Helena Deanery made every effort to ensure that parish communities maintained their identity with sacramental ministry provided at each site. This Deanery Planning Group wanted the planning to be flexible to be able to adapt to the reality that would be present when parts of the plan needed to be implemented. There are options provided in this plan that make it more flexible. It is also envisioned that changes will occur on an “as needed” basis.

The plan envisions two priests at the Cathedral (with a mission in Avon) and foresees the possibility that Helmville and Lincoln may be added to the Cathedral cluster as that becomes necessary. It would also be possible that, if Avon, Helmville and Lincoln were part of an available priest-sacramental minister’s assignment, and clustering with the Cathedral was no longer necessary, that the Cathedral could be clustered (one priest serving two communities) with either Boulder or Townsend parishes as that becomes necessary.

If the diocese can no longer provide a resident priest for the Boulder parishes (St. Catherine and St. John), it is envisioned that it will be clustered with a parish in Helena or East Helena. The clustering parish would be decided when that becomes necessary. If it is economically feasible, there will be a pastoral administrator (either full- or part-time) appointed to serve the Boulder parish.

If the Diocese can no longer provide a resident priest for the parish in Townsend, it is envisioned that it will be clustered with a parish in Helena or East Helena. The clustering parish would be decided when that becomes necessary. If it is economically feasible, there will be a pastoral administrator (either full- or part-time) appointed to serve the Townsend parish. St. Mary in Helena maintains a priest and, as necessary, will cluster with either Boulder or Townsend.

Ss. Cyril and Methodius in East Helena (with missions in Clancy and Canyon Ferry) maintains a priest and, as necessary, will cluster with either Boulder or Townsend. Our Lady of the Valley in Helena will be assigned one priest with responsibility for Wolf Creek and Marysville.

As there is a need to form clusters, decisions will be made sensitively within the cluster regarding issues that will impact all the communities, such as celebrations of Christmas, Holy Week, Easter, etc., and any modifications of Mass schedules. Care will be taken to have all communities considered in these decisions.

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.

Other ideas important to this Planning Group:

Pastoral administrators: There is great concern that the Diocese have a systematic way to form and train pastoral administrators for service in parishes without a resident pastor. Areas for planning would include:

  • Training/formation and the funding of this preparation need to be consistent throughout the diocese and comprehensive. The need is now.
  • A job description for this position (either full- or part-time as needed) needs to be developed.
  • Funding for the position in the parishes needs to be explored with any options for help for parishes less able to fully fund the position.
  • Expectations and preparation for the parish of such a position need to be done prior to appointing a pastoral administrator.
  • Care needs to be exercised around the relationship with the sacramental minister and the congregation for this person.
  • Compatibility with the parish needs to be considered.
  • Oversight from the Diocese for the functioning of pastoral administrators (evaluation) needs to be in place.