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Can We Start by Looking Inside-out
Our parish has a clear sense of purpose. We are a
parish for newcomers. This was an easy choice for us, being surrounded by
refugees and immigrants. Perhaps we are
not so unique, if one considers that more than one in ten people relocate each
year, and that rate doubles for young adults. This means that every
year another 15% of those living around your parish is a newcomer!
See how easy it can be for a parish to grow?
Just look inside-out?
Fr. Bob Zilliox, the new pastor at Sacred Heart of Jesus
Shrine in Bowmansville, is excited for the opportunity to finally put into
practice so many lessons which he learned from outstanding priests of this
diocese. Msgr. John Zeitler of fond memory, taught him that when
newcomers call to register at the Shrine, the secretary should not just take
down their address and send out a box of envelopes. Instead, she should
warmly welcome them and suggest that the pastor would prefer to come to them,
bless their home, and share about how the parish can serve them.
During this visit, the pastor has the opportunity to get to
know newcomers and let them know how valuable they are to the parish.
Best of all, it happens on their home turf. Much can be learned by observing
where people live. Is there someone at home with particular needs:
mobility issues, a talented musician, or a child with special needs? How
people live is one window to their soul. A simple house blessing can
become a heart to heart exchange, or even a time of reconciliation. There
are plenty of home blessings published, including one at
Clearly, not all pastors have the time to do this for every
newcomer, so why not equip parish volunteers?
What if just half of our parishes implemented this approach in some
way? There are plenty of customizable, welcome brochures and cards
available for free. These can be
combined with a few items of information, about your parish and the surrounding
community. Perhaps the parish can add a
hand-made rosary from the ladies guild, or a Jubilee Year of Mercy medal, as a
house-warming gift. Going to them can sound like an inside-out approach,
but it works.
In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis assures us that
"... a merciful heart is motivated to move beyond its comfort zone. A
merciful heart can go out and meet others. It is ready to embrace
everyone." In the name of Jesus, a merciful parish is able to be "a place
of refuge for those who are without a home or who have lost their home... able to
build a home and a family... A merciful heart cans share bread with the hungry
and welcome refugees." - July 28th, Blonia, Poland. Sound a
little inside-out? What do you have to lose? Try looking at
yourself from the outside-in. You will
see the wisdom in doing things inside-out.
According to the most recent report from the Pew Research Center, we are in a growth market. Why? Because religious participation continues to decline in America. Among these findings: The share of Americans who say they are "absolutely certain" that God exists has dropped eight percentage points, from 71 percent to 63 percent, since 2007, when the last comparable study was made. The percentage of adults who describe themselves as "religiously affiliated" has shrunk six points since 2007, from 83 percent to 77 percent. The shares of the U.S. adult population who consider religion "very important" to them, pray daily, and attend services at least once a month have declined between three and four percent over the last eight years.
Another recent survey concluded that for the first time in the history of America, 55% of Catholic Americans have left the church and 77% of these have little intention of returning. Oddly, this is at the same time that Pope Francis is the most influential person in the world - digital or real, parents remain the most influential person in the lives of young people and a friend's invitation is still the most effective way to get someone to come to church. What does all this say? We are in a growth market. So what is going wrong? Read more...
We have all heard the disastrous reports regarding declines in church attendance. And yet, for a brilliant moment, all this will seem like just a bad dream as our ranks swell on Christmas. Like Joseph and young Mary, they will wander up to our doors, wondering if there is room at the inn. Those least expected, like shepherds and kings, will fill our ranks as well and many of them will be young. Can we recognize Christ in their company and be Christ-bearers for them?
The iGeneration, Y-Generation, Millennials, Mosaics - whatever the label, they may be the game-changer generation for our parishes. Read more...
The single most effective way that churches grow is through small faith groupings. One of the most promising processes available today is called Christ Life. Any parish can leverage this process and intentional groups to grow in partnership with other Christ Life parishes in our Diocese. Interested? More information can be obtained here. Read more...
Is your parish growing? But more importantly, how do you think about growing? Is it numbers? When it comes to church growth little is measured by the numbers. Churches can grow numerically for a variety of reasons, some of which are deceiving or merely coincidental. As with so many other living things, when it comes to vitality, numbers are at best symptomatic of growth, not the cause or the purpose of growth. Read more...
Parish success might come down to the answer to a simple question: Why aren't we growing? I am convinced that the next evangelization can start with this answer. Why? Because we listen with a mix of astonishment and disbelief to Easter stories of a powerful young church. Why aren't we just as Spirit-filled today? Many Catholics have been generously sacramentalized. Some are even sufficiently catechized. But too few are adequately evangelize. Could it be that we have lost the capability to warm hearts that yearn for Christ? Read more...
No outreach initiative is only about getting people to show up at church. Worship is essential, but not sufficient. And for some it isn't first. The Eucharist is an invitation to live out our baptism - grow in faith, by sharing that faith, and be transformed by faith. We are commissioned to keep the faith, but not keep it to ourselves. And isn't the parish is bigger than those who come to Mass every week anyway? Thriving parishes are helping their people to: name it, claim it, tame it and aim it. Do your people live their faith so abundant that it is attracting attention? Would anyone outside the parish, notice or care if your parish moved or closed tomorrow? Jesus offers life in abundance and Jesus claims a growth paradigm for His Church! Ask yourself, where do we GROW from here?
And more Catholics will be returning on our second busiest day of the year which is (guessing?)... Ash Wednesday. What is your plan? Read more...
These sites are not an endpoint, but rather a first step toward welcoming Jesus into your life. Read through these sites, reflect in prayer on what you see. If you feel inspired, maybe you will wish to share them links to a close friend, then engage them in a fulfilling discussion about Christ's message. Conversations like this will bring you both to a furthered understanding about our Lord's teachings.