PEP Newsletter

Ideas For Your Parish


June, 2017

Revitalizing the Catholic Church

Chris Lowney wrote a new book called, Everyone Leads (Rowman & Littlefield, 2017).  It is organized around the acronym, EASTeR, which stands for Entrepreneurial, Accountable, Serve, Transform, Reach Out. (p. 6).  His premise is that it is not up to those in the hierarchy or positions of authority to practice these traits.  Rather it is up to each individual baptized believer, united with others in a common endeavor.  Pope Francis, in a recent Ted Talk said, “Let us help each other, all together, to remember that the ‘other’ is not a statistic, or a number.  We all need each other.” (April, 2017)


The Church In Crisis

Lowney begins his book with a list of what he calls, “a multidimensional crisis of historic proportions.” These include 1) a shortage of priests, 2) the sacraments becoming unavailable to the faithful, 3) Catholics becoming less and less engaged with the Church, 4) young adults showing little interest in organized religion. “All of these trends,” he says, “are on track to worsen.” (p. 13)  His solution?  Become an EASTeR People.



The first step in revitalizing the Church is to realize that it is each individual’s responsibility and calling to make this happen, not just those in authority.  One recent example is St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Lima, Ohio.  One hundred and eight parishioners took it upon themselves to visit all of the parishioners for whom they had names and addresses.  They called themselves Parish Ambassadors.  During the month of April, 2017, supported and encouraged by the pastor and leadership, these people knocked on the doors of 867 parish households.  They made contact, listened to people’s concerns and updated parish records  Their work is not done, they have another 850 to visit, but this was a great beginning.  These Ambassadors are following Lowney’s maxim that Everyone Leads.  “Imagine the power that will be unleashed when half of all Catholics start taking more ownership of their parishes, even thinking of themselves as ‘leaders of leaders.’” (p 43)



Jesus in his parable on the Last Judgment, held people accountable, as has Pope Francis by calling priests, bishops and Curial officials to let go of clericalism and connect with people in the streets.  The Pope is challenging all the baptized to seek out the poor, marginalized and forgotten, not waiting for them to come to us.  Imagine a parish that has built in structures of accountability, pastor and staff included.  One such is Most Holy Trinity in San Jose where the pastor and staff work in partnership, holding one another accountable, as well in those with whom they labor in various parish ministries.  There are no silos, no independent, self-contained, isolated workers – they are ministering as one, supporting, encouraging and challenging each other.


Serving, Transforming and Reaching Out

“An entrepreneur thinks: ‘Here’s a need, and I can do something about it.’  And leadership says, ‘let me show the way forward instead of waiting for someone else.’  And that’s accountability.” (p. 115)   The focus of this way of acting is on the needs of those right in front of you, taking the time and making the effort to be of service.  “The all-encompassing commitment to serve will energize us, unite us, transform our hearts.” (p. 117)

The transforming aspect is about the power of the Gospels and the life and teachings of Jesus that set hearts on fire.  “If millions are walking away from us because their spiritual needs are not being met, then we’re not doing our jobs.” (p. 134)  The challenge is to speak to people’s hearts and help them encounter the Risen Christ.  Reaching Out follows the impetus of Pope Francis.  Don’t wait for people to come to us, he urges.  Go out and meet the people in the streets, in homes, in office buildings, on social media.  “Engage all those outside our doors, not hanging back and merely saying they are welcome.”  (p. 151)   Be an EASTeR People!

Tom Sweetser, SJ