Great Ideas from Great Catholic Parishes

Great Catholic Parishes: A Living Mosaic – How Four Essential Practices Make Them Thrive by William E. Simon, Jr. (Amazon)

I wrote a long review of this book earlier in the week (here), but wanted to highlight some of the amazing ideas shared because they were so innovative.

Mock Trials: A parish in Madison, New Jersey, got creative with their Adult Ed program. I’ve never even considered this as an option for Adult Ed, but am so intrigued. I’d love to attend something like this at my parish (are you reading this Fr. W?)!

“Our Outreach to Catholic Lawyers, run by lawyers themselves, has done two remarkable programs in the last two years: a fictional ‘Trial of God’ that tried to prove or disprove his existence, conducted by notable local attorneys and judges, and an imagined ‘Trial of the Apostle Peter,’ envisioning his prosecution by the Roman Empire for a capital crime.”

Great Catholic Parishes, pg 69

Measuring Engagement: As a new pastor this priest knew his predecessor hadn’t focused on growth or engagement. To build it he simply picked up the phone.

Not knowing where to start he picked up the phone and began calling parishioners. These individuals were shocked that he called, and when he began asking specific questions about things related to the parish, he discovered the parish was, on the whole, completely disengaged. Without having ever met these individuals, this pastor sparked a new sense of engagement in the parish by making connections with his people.

Great Catholic Parishes, pg 88-89

Invite, Invite, Invite: Msgr. Pope discussed his evangelization efforts at his parish in Washington, DC. During evangelization season 120 people are involved, each using their own gifts and talents to spread the Good News and support one another.

Everybody gets involved. I had forty people knocking on doors while forty more were praying int he chapel for our success. And another forty were signed up to provide a meal for the prayers and the walkers when they got back. So, on a typical Saturday morning during evangelization season, we’ve got 120 people. It isn’t just some little subcommittee of niche people who were willing to get out and knock on a few doors. It’s a fairly big cross-section of the parish that are involved.

Great Catholic Parishes, pg 145

Community Picnics: A parish in Missouri knows that a structured plan is critical to staying organized and being intentional. They’ve got push pins, maps, and a scatter diagram!

Getting the word out that new people belong at the parish is easier when there is a structured plan. One parish we spoke with in Missouri uses a scatter diagram to keep track of where parishioners live. The parish hosts picnics at local parks, inviting neighbors and those who live down the street. Once an initial contact is established, it is only a matter of consulting the diagram to see which parishioner lives near-by and can follow up with someone who has already made that first step toward the parish.

Great Catholic Parishes, pg 145

Discussion Events for Young Adults: Every parish I speak with wants to know how to “get the millennials” back to Church. As a millennial myself, I too want to look around the parish and see people my own age. There are a lot of things to do, but this sentence really spoke to me.

A healthy space for dialogue is free from assumptions about young adults. Generalizations about millennials and their preferences can be misleading, and many pastors are finding that the millennials in their midst are not what they expected.

Great Catholic Parishes, pg 164

Millennials aren’t after ‘just one thing’ from the Church. Some are service oriented, some want the traditional devotions of the church, some are looking for help raising their children, some are looking for a spouse, some are super focused on their career, some are dressed in suits and ties attending the Latin Mass, some are attracted to the contemporary service late Sunday night where jeans are most common. The secret is to get to know the millennials in your community, listen to what they are seeking, and walk with them toward the Lord.

Two potential event ideas (because who doesn’t love a clever activity title?): Grill the Pastor … people come and ask whatever they want of the pastor, maybe it’s in the summer with burgers and dogs, maybe you have it on the Feast of St. Lawrence (August 10th)! BYOF (Bring Your Own Faith). The priest describes it as “an opportunity … to come and talk about particular issues in the Church they have problems with.” (GCP 166)

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