Parish Newsletter

A Service of the Parish Evaluation Project

Milwaukee, Wisconsin  

March, 2002 

           Thank you for your encouraging response to the first issue of the Parish Newsletter.  We are up and running.  Some of you sent in ideas about what could be done to create new energy and vitality in parishes.  We will share some of these in succeeding issues.  For this issue, a creative idea from Marquette University in Milwaukee.

Ministry Fair: 

           Many parishes have a Ministry Fair once a year to display all that is going on in the parish.  This usually takes place before and after the weekend Masses in a place that is easily accessible to the Mass-goers.  One parish had a popcorn machine in the parish hall that was close enough to the church and gathering space that it lured people in for a bag of popcorn and to look at all the booths that displayed parish ministries and organizations.  Another parish, for that one weekend, had all the Masses in the gym so people had to come see what was being offered.  The booths were around the walls and the altar at the far end so people passed by the displays on the way to Mass.  The purpose of a Ministry Fair is to show the parishioners all that is happening in the parish and to encourage them to participate in at least one group or ministry for the coming year.  One week following the Ministry Fair is Commitment Weekend where people make a financial commitment for the coming year and sign up for one or more activity or ministry as well.

           Here’s a new twist for the Ministry Fair.  It was the brainstorm of Stephanie Russell, the head of Mission Awareness at Marquette University.  The theme was “Teach them to fish.”  She gave to each department on campus a large plywood fish, two feet by four feet, and asked them to decorate it to show how they were helping people “learn how to fish.”  The results are displayed on the web at  The idea came from the “cows” that lined Chicago’s Michigan Avenue a few years back.  Los Angeles had angels.          

           A parish could do the same.  Give each ministry and organization a large fish, or some other icon.  Have them decorate it in a way that described their work and how it reflected their purpose and identity in the parish.  Display these as part of the Ministry Fair, or in the gathering space leading into where the Fair will take place.  It worked at Marquette, why not your parish as well. 

           Any other ideas about how to show off what parish ministries are about or ways to help people become more involved in parish functions and events?  Surely there are some great ideas out there.  Let’s hear from you. 

Tom Sweetser, SJ