... these building blocks are not complicated or difficult to implement. If anything, they may seem so obvious that they are overlooked and not given the importance they deserve.
Everyone admits that doing the work of evangelization has made the work of priests, staffs and parishioners more challenging. The reason is that for many Catholics, living and acting like a disciple was not something that was talked about or given much thought. It was generally just taken for granted. It has been stated over and over that being disciples and living as missionary disciples, as the bishops of the U. S. have asked, requires a more intentional way of living and practicing our faith.
As mentioned in previous articles, there are many books written about the topics of evangelization and discipleship. Colleges and universities have hosted lectures on the topic. In addition, there are several organizations that have turned their focus to helping Catholics better understand evangelization and its relevance to life today. One such movement is "The Amazing Parish." The organizers of Amazing Parish have as their goal, "a strong commitment to supporting pastors and their leadership teams in parishes as they strive to live Christ's great commission to 'Go and make disciples of all nations.'" This organization hosts webinars, provides online courses, and resources, all with the aim of making "amazing parishes." The leadership of Amazing Parish strongly encourages the use of their resources as a means of strengthening parish life and the work of evangelization. For more information about Amazing Parish go to AmazingParish.org.
In a recent webinar offered by Amazing Parish, two important topics were discussed. The first was "Three Building Blocks to Making a Parish an Amazing Parish" and the second was "Critical Keys to Success." This week I want to share about the first part of the webinar and in next week's column, "Critical Keys to Success."
The three building blocks that were discussed in the webinar have been adapted for use in the training sessions for Disciples in Mission. These building blocks do not require sums of money but rather a significant level of intentionality. Additionally, these building blocks are not complicated or difficult to implement. If anything, they may seem so obvious that they are overlooked and not given the importance they deserve.
The first building block is a reliance on prayer and the sacraments. Hopefully, this building block is one that every priest, parish staff and parishioner values and promotes. However, when things get busy, and the priest or staff are feeling out of control, time for prayer sometimes gets set aside for the "important work of ministry." The same is true for the parishioners. Life has a way of interrupting our good intentions, and a commitment to prayer slips away. The webinar presenter reminded participants that without a fidelity to prayer and the sacraments as our foundation, we lose sight of what is most important.
The second building block to becoming an amazing parish is a commitment to building a healthy organization. This requires not only strong pastoral and financial resources. One very important way to ensure the building of a healthy organization is for the pastor to articulate a clear vision to parishioners and staff. It also means that good communication structures between priest, parishioners and staff helps to break down barriers, creates greater transparency and helps to build trust. When there are trusting relationships, the communication flows naturally and lovingly back and forth between priests and staff to parishioners and from parishioners to staff and priests.
The third building block is to have a passion for evangelization and discipleship. When a parish is recognized as a prayerful community, and healthy structures exist within the parish, the work of evangelization is made easier. People are attracted to parishes where the spirit of prayer and welcome are felt when entering the church. People are appreciative whenever they find clear and open communication, be it through a website or bulletin announcements. When there is a reliance on prayer and the sacraments, and when open communication exists, people are more likely to remain engaged in the life of a parish.
In parishes where the first two building blocks are strong, people gradually become passionate about their discipleship and are more likely to extend themselves to others and actively live their own baptismal call to discipleship. These building blocks are a good recipe for becoming an amazing parish!
Sister Pat Boyle is associate director of the Archdiocese of Bostonís Office of Pastoral Planning.