This past week I got a call from Alan Badia of the Parish Life Department of the Diocese. He wanted to know if I would be willing to bring a small team of staff and parish leaders to the Amazing Parish Conference in Atlanta Georgia this coming March 13-15. Bishop Thomas has committed to going to this conference, and he would like a number of parish teams to accompany him. What is the Amazing Parish movement? The following is from their website (amazingparish.org):
Co-founders Pat Lencioni and John Martin met in 2013 and realized very quickly that they shared a desire to serve and build up the Church. After much prayer and discernment and lengthy discussions with Catholic leaders, they agreed that the Holy Spirit was prompting them to do something to uplift, improve and help parishes turn from maintenance to missionary communities.
With John’s experience in business and Pat’s expertise in organizational health and leadership, they worked with other Catholic leaders to develop and host the first Amazing Parish Conference, which was held in Denver in August 2014. The response to the conference was overwhelming, confirming that The Amazing Parish model was effective and that parish leaders were hungry to learn.
Since then, we’ve held numerous conferences and have continuously strived to improve our parish support, which includes a website with free resources, free webinars, and coaching/consulting services. We’ve seen countless parishes transformed through their involvement with The Amazing Parish movement. As we grow, so does our commitment to continue 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.”
They work to train parish leaders by means of three basic building blocks: 1) a reliance on prayer and sacraments, 2) a commitment to a healthy organization, 3) and a passion for evangelization and discipleship. Perhaps the greatest felt need in many of our parishes nowadays is for better organization. This is especially so, given the fact that priests are stretched now between several parishes. Without the right structures in place, a pastor can find himself fielding requests to handle everything from flower bed mulch to communion wine and hosts; and he can be tempted to neglect some of the duties that are specifically his, such as prayer and study. But beyond stretching the pastor too far, there is the positive potential to organize parishioners, such that everybody realizes his or her vital role in making the parish succeed. And furthermore, making the parish an instrument of outreach in the hands of the Lord. Our society needs Jesus Christ! A parish focused outside of itself with the love of Jesus Christ, empowered by the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and other sacraments, will be medicine for a wounded culture.
I feel the need to say clearly that I think we already have an amazing parish! There is already some great outreach happening. There is great worship of God happening. There is an amazing amount of service already happening. Furthermore, we are already asking some of the tough questions about how best to organize, especially since we have three campuses, formerly three parishes. Our Volunteer Life Committee has been working for a number of months now to try to document the many facets of our parish life, the many roles our parishioners currently fill. Then with some understanding of what is now being done, they are asking how we can improve it. Can we fill out and/or shape the structure, so that there is healthy, bi-directional communication between the pastoral and office staff and all the various prayer groups, committees, clubs and service areas? So the work we’ve already begun fits perfectly into the dynamic of the Amazing Parish Movement. Suggesting we go to an Amazing Parish Conference is not to miss how already amazing our parish is. We can certainly learn something from others who are trying to accomplish better organization and outreach in their parishes.
My own initial vision for the structure included a “volunteer manager” at each campus who would help to ensure that everybody serving in any way in the parish would have what he or she needed, and that every group would be refreshed by new help from time to time. Then because people are so very busy nowadays, and they have to make a living with paying jobs, it seems we have to break things down into small enough units, so that various volunteer services can fit reasonably into family life and work. The work of parish life has to be shared by everybody – no soul left behind. There is still plenty of discussion to happen to tweak and build upon that initial vision. That is what the Volunteer Life Committee is studying. But with something like this in mind, I am wondering if I can identify one person from each campus to attend the Amazing Parish Conference in Atlanta this coming March. These three would join the office staff and me; and our parish team would be joining the handful of other pastors and parish teams with the Bishop in Atlanta. [I hope to have some special outside funding coming my way to help us foot the bill for all of this.] If somebody reading this letter is feeling particularly called, and you have a gift for organization/management, I would be interested in meeting with you to consider you for this conference and for some ongoing help with our own parish structure.
On another note, I did many people ask me how our first Spanish Mass went. I thought it was a fantastic success. It was even pretty easy to pull off, chanting the antiphons, the Gospel acclamation and the responsorial psalm to easy tones. This is definitely something we want to keep on doing. The Hispanics who attended were very grateful, getting to hear the entire Mass in their own language (of course with some of my erroneous Italian thrown in from time to time!) People stayed afterwards and talk for quite a while. Once a month I envision having a dinner together to build up this community aspect even more. Please remember that we have resources in English for this Mass as well, so anybody can attend and follow what is happening.
Have a blessed week!
In cordibus Iesu et Mariae,