What is really happening in the Catholic Church in North America? Are parishes thriving or dying? Is dissatisfaction among Catholics growing or are they becoming more engaged in the evangelizing mission of the Church?
Businessman, professor, and philanthropist, William E. Simon Jr. has been highly influenced by the dynamic and inspiring Catholic parishes he has attended for more than 25 years. In 2012, he founded Parish Catalyst, an organization devoted to researching and supporting the health and development of Catholic parishes. Great Catholic Parishes looks at Simon’s insights and the success stories of 244 vibrant parishes to show what makes them great.
In 2012 and 2013, Bill Simon and his team studied 244 Catholic parishes to determine what made them exceptional. The study found that all of the parishes shared four foundational practices that led to a profound sense of belonging within their parish communities and a deepening commitment to discipleship:
- Share leadership by using clergy and lay staff with the best talents and skills to direct the community
- Foster spiritual maturity and plan for discipleship by offering a variety of formation programs and ministry opportunities to reach parishioners at differing points in their lives
- Excel on Sundays by dedicating significant time, energy, and money to liturgical celebrations that parishioners and visitors find welcoming
- Intentionally evangelize by challenging insiders to look outward and providing service programs, social events, global mission opportunities, and pastoral care at key sacramental moments that focus on inviting outsiders to deeper relationship with Christ and the Church.
In Great Catholic Parishes, Simon shares personal stories such as finding a welcoming parish home and what he learned about evangelizing from a mission trip to Kenya. Pastors from exceptional parishes offer helpful ideas, strategic advice, and practical strategies, as well as anecdotes about lay ministry development initiatives and reworking religious education so that it is family focused and web-based.
You will also learn creative solutions to familiar challenges such as spiritual stagnation among parishioners, reconciling diverse needs in the parish, allowing the pastor to focus on pastoring and preaching, and reaching youth and young adults who leave the Church in disproportionate numbers.
Each chapter closes with either crucial takeaways or a summary of practical challenges that will help pastors and leaders focus on growth and excellence.