February 4, 2013

TORONTO – Cardinal Thomas Collins has launched a pastoral plan for the Archdiocese of Toronto that proposes creation of a "Cathedral Block" to transform St. Michael's Cathedral and surrounding area into a place of pilgrimage.

The Cathedral Block is the centrepiece in a relentless campaign of evangelization to "win the world for Christ."

Eighteen months in the making, the 30-page pastoral plan will guide Toronto's Catholic endeavours, encompassing everything from parishes to universities, homeless shelters to video production, youth ministry to creating a thriving presence in the downtown core.

"It is intended to present us with a bold vision," Collins said.

The plan is organized into five "core directions": parish life, vocations, catholic outreach in justice and love, evangelization of society and the cathedral as sign of our mission.

The unifying theme is the New Evangelization – a constant demand that in every area the Toronto Church must do more, be more, risk more and love more for the sake of the very same mission Jesus gave his disciples.

An exercise in what Collins calls "deep stewardship," the plan is no passing ecclesiastical fad, he said. "This is permanent. We need to be thinking this way all the time"

Unlike other pastoral plans launched across Europe and North America in recent years, Toronto's plan never mentions closing or consolidating parishes or sacrificing ministries to accommodate reduced numbers of priests, parish congregations and funds.

"Fundamentally, our issue is to expand," Collins said.

A separate strategic plan is in the works and expected to be ready for public consumption in May.

With the help of U.S.-based consultants Catholic Community Services, the archdiocese is developing a capital plan that envisions raising $160 to $198 million to invest in critical infrastructure and other ministries.

But what will kidnap attention will be Cathedral Square. It is an ambitious plan that fits hand in glove with ongoing renovations to St. Michael's Cathedral.

Restoring the cathedral to architectural significance and splendour is one of Collins' most treasured ambitions.

"It could be a shining example," he said. "It's the prow of the ship."