Stone Cathedral or a Towering Sequoia?
Which is your parish more like - a stone cathedral or a towering sequoia? Before you answer, recall that even the greatest of the cathedrals, neither stood as tall, nor lasted as long as the redwood giants. Some sequoias, still standing today, pre-date Christ. These mighty trees are living testimony to the importance of cooperation. Sequoias are even more incredible when one considers their height and the forces of nature that these trees have withstood century after century. While most trees rely on a single tap root that anchors it deep in the earth to resist the buffets of wind and weather, the sequoia does not. And yet it is the sequoia that has proven the most successful, standing taller and living longer than any tree or cathedral. Their strength is in their roots.
The genius of a sequoia is attributed to its interconnected root system. That is the secret of their towering height and incredible longevity. These members of the cypress family are unique in that they literally hold each other up. The sequoia lives as a cooperative community. This is a vital lesson for vibrant Catholic parish life. Cooperative purpose has been the strength of the Catholic Church throughout the centuries. We are a communion of communities, who share a united identity and a cooperative destiny.
The days of parochialism are over. There are many ways that parishes can benefit from cooperative efforts. Examples of ways that parishes have already benefited through mutual cooperation include:
- saving on expenses (e.g. program supplies, subscriptions and quantity purchases)
- sharing part-time staffing
- scheduling Mass and holy day events
- large scale faith formation events
- jointly sponsored RCIA
- sponsoring joint reconciliation and devotions
- shared hospital chaplaincy coverage
- enrichment for liturgy or faith formation leaders
- outreach/evangelization efforts
- care for the poor (building projects, community dining room, pantry or clothes closets)
- occasional pulpit exchanges
- idea sharing between liturgy committees
- marriage preparation programs
- large or extensive programs that lend themselves to pooling resources (e.g. Lenten speaker series, JustFAITH, Come and See, or a youth rally)
Consider practical suggestions for greater cooperation today...
The Office of Parish Life provides facilitation, consultation and skill workshops for parishes interested in the collaborative advantage. There is no cost for this service.
Workshops, Resources and Consultation Support
- Inter-Parish Cooperation - Best Practices: balancing the greater good with making ministry easier, learning from each other, developing strategies for action (for parish staff and ministry leaders). tapping the power in choice, the purpose of parish the role of imagination
- Parish Vitality or Mere Viability - The Choice is Ours: the difference between vitality and viability, signs of a growing church, the secret of a mission-driven parish
- Spirituality for Change: uncovering the paschal rhythm in change, packing for the journey, a pillar of fire and a column of smoke (parish staff, transition team and pastoral council)
- Growing an Engaged Church: learn what the latest research tells us about why people come and stay, explore ways to engage the core parishioners in response to emerging needs and newcomers (for parish staff, pastoral council and ministry leaders)
- Transitioning and Merging Parishes: The role of a transition team, faith sharing process for newly merged parishes, panel discussion with a successful parish, answers to most frequently asked questions about procedures, staffing and facilities, etc. (for parish staff and ministry leaders).
Parish vitality does not just happen. It is the result of strategic choices. If you are interested in the cooperative advantage, the Office of Parish Life is at your service.