New round of ‘conversation starters’ planned for Growing Disciples process

Bishop Louis Tylka provides a “tactical update” on the Growing Disciples process via video. A new message regarding how the conversation will include the schools was released Feb. 28.

When it comes to Growing Disciples, the two-year pastoral planning process taking place in the Diocese of Peoria right now, Bishop Louis Tylka knows that everyone just wants to know what’s going to happen.

He can’t give them an answer, however.

“It’s not just about telling you what’s going to happen,” he said. “It’s about involving you in the process to determine what’s going to happen.”

That dialogue will continue this month, starting with the priests at their spring assembly day on March 14. What follows will be a meeting with the diocesan commission and then key parish leaders in April.

The “conversation starters” for this phase of the process involve models of possible parish groupings based on the data collected over the last six months of 2022. Bishop Tylka said the Growing Disciples core team members put the models together prayerfully and deliberately over many discussions of their own.

While the process started by looking at the vicariates as a manageable way to “walk across the diocese” and look at other groupings, people shouldn’t feel limited to that structure, the bishop said. Rather, they are considered “planning areas.”


When the priests, diocesan commission and parish leaders look at the various models they will be asked to look at how the suggested grouping of parishes work together.

“It’s not just about telling you what’s going to happen. It’s about involving you in the process to determine what’s going to happen.” — Bishop Louis Tylka

“Do they work together? Are there things here that the hard data that we collected don’t fully tell the story? Is there a natural affinity between Parishes A and C that are already working together,” Bishop Tylka explained.

“We’re not at the point where we’re looking and saying Parishes A, B, C or A, B, C, D, E are going to become Parish XYZ. We’re only at the point of saying we believe these are groupings and this is the model of the groupings of the parishes that we should be looking at together,” he said.

All of that information will be reviewed in June and July. Then the Growing Disciples core team will sit down and work on any adjustments that might be necessary, according to Bishop Tylka.

Once the right groupings of parishes have been established, the conversation becomes more direct, he said. Everyone will be asked what a “mission-driven, vibrant, sustainable parish for tomorrow” looks like.

“Again, I have no idea what that’s going to mean,” he said. “We’re not far enough along to say this is what it’s going to look like. That’s the second phase of the conversation, the more in depth conversation that will take place in the fall.”

At that time, the key parish leaders will go back to their faith communities for a discussion and gather feedback.


Some have asked if the Catholic schools will be part of the process. Bishop Tylka said they would, but required a “dedicated process” in conjunction with evaluation of the parishes.

A video, letters to the priests and principals of the schools, and a statement from Bishop Tylka were released Feb. 28 and March 1 on the diocesan website,

“To ensure that we dedicate the appropriate time and resources in a thorough and strategic process, and allow schools ample time to implement any changes, I have decided that the current funding approach for schools will remain in place for the 2023-24 school year,” the bishop’s statement says.

“In partnership with our parishes, the mission of Catholic schools is to educate and form young people to live as disciples of Christ,” the statement continues. “I am grateful for the dedication of our school leadership, staff and families in providing a quality Catholic education to students.”

Significant challenges remain in terms of ensuring the integrity of the schools’ Catholic identity, as well as their financial sustainability, and these impact the goals of Growing Disciples, Bishop Tylka notes in the statement.

More updates will be coming, he said.

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