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Dynamic Catholic invites parishes to pilot 'Dynamic Parish' initiative

The Dynamic Parish implementation team, from the Reading Catholic Collaborative, with speaker Tony Ferraro (center) following their Dream Event. Pilot photo/courtesy Dynamic Catholic

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BRAINTREE -- Parishes in 12 dioceses across the United States, including the Archdiocese of Boston, have been invited to participate in the Dynamic Parish initiative organized by the Dynamic Catholic Institute.

After consulting with the Secretariat for Evangelization and Discipleship, Dynamic Catholic chose five collaboratives from the Archdiocese of Boston to participate in the Dynamic Parish initiative: Holy Family Parish in Duxbury; Sts. Mary and Joseph Collaborative, which serves Kingston, Plympton, and Plymouth; the Arlington Collaborative, which includes St. Camillus Parish and St. Agnes Parish; the Concord/Carlisle Collaborative, which includes Holy Family Parish and St. Irene Parish; and the Reading Collaborative, which includes St. Athanasius Parish and St. Agnes Parish.

Dynamic Catholic, a nonprofit organization founded by author and speaker Matthew Kelly, produces catechetical materials to help Catholics become more intentional about their faith and more engaged with their communities.

"Our mission is to help the Catholic Church be everything that it can be for the people of our age," Scot Landry, co-leader of the Dynamic Parish initiative, said in a Feb. 10 interview. Landry is a member of St. Agnes Parish in Arlington and held leadership roles in the archdiocese prior to his work at Dynamic Catholic.

The Dynamic Parish initiative is a five-year process intended to help parishes energize and evangelize their members while gathering information about what methods work best to accomplish that goal.

"We want to capture all the ideas that truly work so that we can share them with parishes," Landry said.

Dynamic Catholic's ultimate goal for the initiative is to put together a pastoral plan based on their findings and to present that plan to bishops and pastors.

"They're trying to find best practices to evangelize in the future," said Father John Graham of Sts. Mary and Joseph Collaborative, Jan. 31.

Matthew Kelly spent years visiting parishes to research the differences between "engaged" and "disengaged" Catholics. He found that, in most parishes, about 7 percent of parishioners do most of the work necessary to run a parish. The Dynamic Parish initiative is meant to increase that percentage, helping parishioners become more involved in their parishes and better equipped to evangelize.

The institute identifies four "signs" of a "dynamic Catholic": prayer, study, generosity, and evangelization. After an initial "year of invitation," each year that a parish participates in the Dynamic Parish initiative will focus on a different sign of a "dynamic Catholic."

"The idea is that if enough of our parishioners become highly engaged, then the parish community becomes more highly engaged," said Jeanne Cregan, the faith-formation director of Holy Family Parish in Duxbury, and co-chair of her parish's Dynamic Parish implementation team.

Dynamic Catholic is currently working with 61 parishes in 12 dioceses across the country to implement Dynamic Parish. The first cohort, consisting of 21 parishes, began the process in 2018. A second cohort of 40 parishes, including the five collaboratives in the Archdiocese of Boston, was added in 2019.

Dynamic Catholic approached the Archdiocese of Boston with a particular interest in learning about parish collaboratives, which are unique to the area now but, they believe, may become more common in the future.

Landry said the goal of the Dynamic Parish initiative has some overlap with Disciples in Mission, the archdiocese's pastoral plan for collaboratives.

"The Archdiocese of Boston uses the term 'missionary disciples' for 99 percent overlap of what we mean by 'dynamic Catholic,'" Landry said.

Dynamic Catholic worked with the archdiocese's Secretariat for Evangelization and Discipleship to identify which parish collaboratives were in the phases of Disciples in Mission that would be best suited for the process of becoming a Dynamic Parish.

"There are always implementation hurdles for anything that's new, but everybody on our team knows Boston is a leader in doing the collaborative model of parish life and we're learning a lot from it," Landry said.

Participating parishes receive access to free Dynamic Catholic resources valuing over $500,000. These include catechetical materials for faith formation classes, books to give away at Mass, and programming for liturgical seasons, such as "Best Lent Ever" and "Best Advent Ever."

"So far, Dynamic Parish has been a very big support to the mission of our collaborative," Scott Morin, a member of the Arlington Collaborative, said. He is a youth minister as well as the chair of his parish's Dynamic Parish implementation team.

Each parish also receives regular consultation with members of Dynamic Catholic who visit periodically to exchange feedback about what programs and resources are proving effective.

The parishes are given a "game plan," Father Graham said, but they can decide to what extent they follow that plan, and Dynamic Catholic wants to know how they adjust it and what the results are.

"We may find that we have different methods that work better. And they want to know about how we change what they do, and what works, what doesn't work," he said.

The initiative is a constant learning process, as each new cohort can learn from the experiences of the previous year's cohort.

"Based on feedback of the parishes in each year's cohort, we fine-tune the implementation the next year to try to make it better and stronger," Landry said.

He said that each year, beginning in 2020, Dynamic Catholic will make a documentary film about their findings, which will likely be made available through online streaming platforms.

Landry said the Dynamic Parish initiative will complete at least five rotations before making its findings available in multiple formats, which could include books and videos.

In each parish, the initiative kicked off in December with a Dream Event, in which parishioners gathered to hear a speaker from Dynamic Catholic and voice their hopes for their parish. Attendees used their phones to answer questions displayed on a screen, and as more people gave the same answer, that word became bigger on the screen, revealing what goals parishioners wanted to emphasize.

"A lot of their programming focuses on dreaming about what a Catholic parish can be, dreaming about what the Catholic Church can be," Cregan said.

Father Graham said his parishioners are excited about becoming a Dynamic Parish because they can see that the parish staff is excited.

"They like the fact that we're trying to do something, that we're not just trying to hold on to what we have, but we're trying to find a way to be more engaging, reach out to more people, to try to be a more lively place," he said.

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