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Strategic Plan

Dear Parishioners,

Today we are sending you the strategic plan we have been researching and writing for the last year for Sacred Heart Parish. I thank the Parish Pastoral Council, Finance Committee and the Stewardship Committee for their help and everyone in the parish who gave their input.

We are at a turning point in our parish. Sacred Heart started as a Belgium ethnic parish a little over a hundred years ago. The Belgium population was absorbed into the mainstream of American life in the Quad Cities. In a sense, the mission that Sacred Heart Parish was first established for was accomplished.

There then came a transition to a new mission. Sacred Heart became a territorial parish and ministered to all parishioners in its borders from all ethnicities. People moved up the hill in Moline into new neighborhoods in the last half of the twentieth century. Sacred Heart grew into the biggest parish in the area and served a diverse "American" population.

Today, the neighborhood that Sacred Heart is located in is changing once again and its population is being transformed. The question is what needs do we need to meet today and what do we need to do to stay a healthy faith community? To answer that question we embarked on the strategic planning process. We will base our pastoral direction on this plan for the next three to five years.

Some parts of the plan have been implemented already and other things are being worked on as I write this letter. We will take this plan very seriously. I ask you to pray for our parish as you read this document as we embark on the next part of our history.


Fr. Mark DeSutter Pastor

Sacred Heart Plans for the Future

Since this past summer, Sacred Heart has embarked upon a comprehensive process to plan for its future. That plan began with focus groups and a survey and has now resulted in a plan that sets a course for improved visibility in the community, stable finances, a growing and active membership, and a strong Parish Pastoral Council that supports the work of the pastor and the parish.

Eighty-six individuals participated in one of six focus groups designed to gather broad perceptions of Sacred Heart, what it does well and where it can improve. Then, 458 individuals completed a survey that sought to confirm the findings from the focus groups with a broader audience. Overall, the focus groups and surveys revealed very positive attitudes toward Sacred Heart. Words used to describe Sacred Heart included "beautiful," "home of Christ," "steeped in tradition," "centrally located' and with "traditional values." People liked parish life as a whole and felt they received sufficient opportunities to engage in the ministry of their choice. Overall, they felt welcome by the parish. Other areas receiving positive ratings included the faith formation program, parish communication, quantity of space, and the staff and priests who they described as welcoming, accessible, helpful and engaging.

Some areas identified by the survey as opportunities for improvement included the transparency, energy, and youthfulness of the parish, something that the focus groups mentioned as well. Overall, both sets of data concluded that parishioners would like to see Sacred Heart as more youthful, family-oriented and inclusive with more opportunities for youth and improved relationships between the Catholic school families and non-Catholic school families. They would also like to see better faith formation opportunities for young adults, high school students, and Hispanic families as well as more community outreach and handicapped-accessible space. The Parish Pastoral Council itself received neutral ratings as most people did not know enough about them to rate them.

To improve upon these deficiencies and better realize its vision as "a growing, dynamic Catholic community that actively embraces people of all ages who take ownership of the parish and contribute to its success as it seeks to evangelize others and lead them into the Catholic faith," the Strategic Planning Committee identified the following four areas of focus over the next 3-5 years:

  • Grow the number of Parish members especially among youth and families
  • Improve Sacred Heart's visibility in the community
  • Ensure the continued strength of our parish finances, allowing Sacred Heart to serve as a resource in the spiritual lives of parishioners and the communities we serve
  • Attract, develop, and retain lay leaders so the Parish Pastoral Council can move forward with new/renewed vision and purpose

The following outlines the specific tactics the Parish Pastoral Council – along with volunteers from throughout the parish – plan to take to realize this vision.

Grow the Number of Parish Members

Increasing the number of parish members requires two parallel strategies: recruiting new members to Sacred Heart and retaining those who currently attend.

To recruit new members, the plan calls for using national and parish census data (to collect as part of this plan) to identify areas of potential growth. Likewise, using the philosophy that our people serves as our best ambassadors, the plan will ask parishioners to identify family members, friends, neighbors, colleagues or others who they know that might become a member of Sacred Heart. These could include Catholics who have fallen away from the Church, those dissatisfied with their current parish or new to town, or those without a religious home. Once identified, we will invite those individuals to attend a breakfast after Mass for information and fellowship, following up with a personal invitation to join the parish and all of the reasons they should consider Sacred Heart for their spiritual home. Likewise, the plan re-institutes a Welcoming Committee with specific charges to reach out to new and potential members of the parish to inform them of opportunities and answer any questions they have about parish life.

Targeted programs for youth and young families serve both to recruit new parishioners and retain current ones from this demographic. Under this broad umbrella, the plan seeks to strengthen the Children's Liturgy of the Word, provide more meaningful liturgy and music that appeals to younger people, and have youth and young families brainstorm ways that Sacred Heart can better get them involved and harness their energy and enthusiasm. We will invite leaders that emerge from that brainstorming session to implement the best programs to engage youth and families in the liturgy and parish life as a whole. At Mass, the plan supports the Director of Religious Education to plan a Mass with youth. Annual training on the liturgy for those who serve at Mass (e.g., lectors, altar servers, ushers, greeters, and Eucharistic ministers) will allow them to better understand the spiritual connections of their ministries to liturgy. Finally, identifying parish members to help with and lead the Celebration Choir and Youth Choir will enhance participation in these choirs and participation of the congregation during Mass, especially singing.

We will also hold additional focus groups with Spanish-speaking members of the parish and school as well as the broader community (Catholic and neighborhood) to identify their specific needs and how Sacred Heart might best meet those. The survey – conducted only in English – did not clearly identify needs specific to Spanish-speaking parishioners and potential parishioners; the Strategic Planning Committee felt that more data would better focus efforts in this area.

Retaining current members will also come by an annual Epiphany party and creating an event to welcome or congratulate new members or parishioners who received a sacrament the previous year. Better informing ushers and greeters of any special events at each Mass will also make parishioners and visitors feel more welcomed. Finally, we will create a signature special event with the dual purposes of engaging members in the life of the parish and raising money.

Improve Sacred Heart's Visibility in the Community

A few focus group participants lamented that Sacred Heart used to have power and clout in the broader Catholic, ecumenical and secular communities, but that no longer existed. To retain that sense of pride and inform the broader community about the things that Sacred Heart offers to encourage new members to join, the plan to increase visibility focuses on Sacred Heart's roles in community outreach, its political power, its leadership in ecumenical activities, and its coverage in the Catholic and secular media.

To improve its community outreach – which serves its mission as a Catholic church – Sacred Heart will develop activities specifically designed to engage parish youth groups in community service projects. This aspect dovetails nicely with and supports the liturgical and parish life projects that engage youth and young families in the life of the parish. It also continues and increases support for the St. Mary's Food Pantry, sustains and expands other parish outreach ministries and determines if underserved segments of the population exist for which it should develop new ministries.

The plan better leverages Sacred Heart's political power – as an organization and the collective power of its members – by identifying areas of public policy that the parish wants to support – in addition to Catholic education – and developing a strategy and legislative action teams to present that position to relevant legislators. It also works with the Rock Island Vicariate parishes and schools and the Diocese of Peoria to maximize the impact of the chosen initiatives on political leaders across the region.

Sacred Heart will also become more active in ecumenical activities to raise Sacred Heart's profile among religious organizations. First, the plan develops a clear definition and understanding of the term "ecumenical" to provide a map of the territory before determining a direction for action. Once clearly defined, the plan directs the pastor and staff to develop programs to promote ecumenical programs in the broader faith community.

Finally, the plan seeks to generate more publicity for Sacred Heart – as well as Seton and Alleman schools – in the local secular media as well as The Catholic Post by developing relationships with the appropriate reporters and feeding them story ideas. Better use of social media and the website and eventually developing a marketing plan and hiring a staff person dedicated to marketing will get the word about the good work going on at Sacred Heart and Illinois Quad Cities Catholic Schools to the broader community.

Strengthen Parish Finances

At the present moment Sacred Heart can meet its day to day financial obligations, but two items cause ongoing concern: the deterioration of parish buildings (roofs, heating and air conditioning units, etc.) and the ongoing funding of Catholic Schools. As a vibrant parish, we must address these problems. The plan validates a commitment to maintain a balanced operating budget; use accounting software to support proper reporting, transparency and process compliance; a part-time Finance Director to manage parish finances and properly report to the parish, diocese and government; and that each Parish Pastoral Council, committee, and staff area will adhere to defined financial processes.

To continue to improve its financial position, Sacred Heart will retain an active and skilled Finance Council for oversight of parish finances and adherence to proper accounting practices. To facilitate long-term financial planning, the plan calls for Sacred Heart to work with the Vicariate and school leaders to determine the long-term viability of current school funding models and their impact of parish finances. The Finance Council will also create a rolling three-year forecast of the parish operating budget to better plan for long-term needs.

The plan also calls for an evaluation of parish facilities, land utilization, and equipment to assess their abilities to meet the needs of Sacred Heart. Specifically, it looks at the possible synergy of merging the parish groups focused on facilities and property maintenance (e.g., Pew Pals, Garden Committee) into one Parish Facilities Committee responsible for managing parish properties, facilities and capital planning. That committee will assess parish space needs to develop a five-year facilities plan for the parish, school and adjacent properties that incorporates the financial resources required to support parish aspirations and specifically addresses the needs identified in the survey (i.e., handicapped accessibility, deferred maintenance). A professional fundraising feasibility study will determine the viability of conducting a capital campaign to support the long-range capital needs and program expansions.

To increase revenue, the Development Committee will expand and strengthen their role in parish planning. Through a Parish Legacy Giving program and other fund development activities, the Development Committee will develop a plan to increase parish giving through greater participation and higher per capita giving by 2020. Increasing focus on management and growth of the parish endowment fund will create a dependable revenue stream for perpetuity. The plan calls for eventually determining the needs to hire a part-time development director to support the parish fundraising efforts.

The last part of the finance plan improves transparency and communication to improve the engagement of parish members in parish finances, long-term giving opportunities and capital needs with regular communication in the bulletin, website, and other media avenues.

Develop Lay Leadership

This plan and the parish will only survive if a sufficient number of parishioners step forward to accept volunteer and leadership positions. Parish leadership starts with the Parish Pastoral Council which the survey indicated are invisible to most. As a first step, this plan calls on the Parish Pastoral Council to review its constitution and bylaws and change them as needed to support their role in the parish for stewardship and evangelization. Part of this review includes identifying appropriate volunteer opportunities where parish members can make a very real difference. From there, identifying, recruiting and training lay leaders becomes an important next step. This part of the plan has as its goal having all volunteer and leadership opportunities filled by qualified, energetic individuals with a clear and complete succession plan in place to assure continuity.

To elevate the visibility of the Parish Pastoral Council, they will initially post their names and contact information on the website and in the bulletin so parishioners know who they are. They will also lead ongoing ministry programs to orient new and existing parish members. Finally, to solidify the Parish Pastoral Council's focus on evangelization and stewardship, they will develop a program of "Stewardship Sundays" at least bi-annually to allow church members to talk about their commitment, participation, and rewards of belonging to Sacred Heart. They will also establish and offer an evangelization program 1-2 times each year for individuals who identify their faith as weak, dormant or passive to encourage their active participation in Sacred Heart.


This ambitious plan builds on the best that Sacred Heart offers – its tradition as a caring, welcoming community deeply rooted in the Catholic faith. It solidifies those areas that the survey and focus groups identified as needing improvement: reaching out to younger members and families with young children, raising more money, improved visibility, and greater depth in volunteer leadership. Every member of Sacred Heart plays a role in achieving these ambitious goals. You can volunteer to serve on a committee or for a ministry. Assume a leadership role. Provide your voice and experience to make Sacred Heart a better place. Invite family and friends to experience Sacred Heart. Make a financial contribution. Together, Sacred Heart can achieve its vision as a growing, dynamic Catholic community that actively embraces people of all ages who take ownership of their parish and contribute to its success.