November, 2015

A pastor recently asked what we thought were indicators of an alive and vibrant parish.  Successful Parishes came to mind, a book Tom wrote in 1983.  Here is a new checklist for the modern parish.


For Liturgy  

   ?_  Every door at every Mass on the weekend has a family or a few adults welcoming people into church, remaining for those coming late to the liturgy.  These greeters are also present at the end to say goodbye.

   ?_  The music is geared to the age and culture of those attending each Mass so that the entire congregation is singing with joy and spirit.  Some of the hymns are sung in parts or rounds or alternating subgroups.

   ?_ The readings are read in such a way that it goes to the heart of those attending, perhaps with an introduction to the readings that helps people understand the context and background for each Scripture text.

   ?_ The homily brings the Scriptures to life and provides an age-appropriate application to people’s everyday experiences, all within a reasonable time length and delivered with an appealing and clear delivery. 

For Formation  

   ?_  There is a monthly gathering of families and individuals of different ages, cultures and lifestyles where people can grow in their faith and spirituality, including both large and small group interaction and learning.

   ?_  The weekend Masses include two-minute explanations each month about some aspect of Catholic faith and practice based on questions offered by parishioners, such as issues related to the Mass, saints, traditions.

   ?_  Adults of all ages, cultures and interests are offered a variety of faith enrichment options throughout the year that including large and small group interaction, spiritual direction, Scripture study, book sharing.

For Community 

   ?_  Those of different cultures and backgrounds have regular events at which each one can interact and share with others the unique gifts and customs they have to offer and join together as a single community.

   ?_ Hospitality is a hallmark of the parish so that all newcomers and strangers are welcomed into the community, all groups and ministries are open to new members, all events are joyful celebrations of unity.

   ?_  All who volunteer for a ministry, committee or project know what will be expected of them, that they will be held accountable for the work they do and will serve for limited time so others can take their place.

For Outreach

   ?_  The ministries of pastoral care, Christian service, peace and justice, connecting with inactive Catholics are well-known by the parishioners, are publicly affirmed and attract new members to join their ranks.

   ?_  Those who no longer attend church regularly are personally contacted by visitors who are trained to listen to the stories and concerns of each person, answering questions and offering assistance as needed. 

For Leadership  

   ?_  The pastor, staff and lay leaders continually inform parishioners about any decisions and plans they are making, along with the reasons why certain choices were made, inviting the people’s feedback and insights.

   ?_  Parishioners are challenged to be stewards of God’s gifts, including time for regular prayer, being involved in one or more areas of service, and returning a portion of their financial livelihood back to God.

The temptation is to say, “We already do all these things, ” but try asking others to see if this is so.


Gabriela Garcia, Debora Elkins, Tom Sweetser, SJ