Parish revitalization focus at annual Napa Institute meeting

By Al Donner
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Originally published in The Catholic Voice, September 2, 2019

“Why does this parish exist?”

            Oakland’s Fr. Brandon Macadaeg described helping revitalize a parish “almost on the verge of giving up!”

            Looking for a key to energizing a parish, he challenged it with a central question–why does this parish exist?

Coming up with the answer grew into a success story through combined efforts of the clergy, staff and members of the parish, he explained at the 2019 Napa Institute.

            The heart of parish revitalization “is all relational” among people in the community, which means people work together and energize each other. “That brings forth life in a parish,” as Fr. Macadaeg sees it.

            It often starts with people getting re-energized by each other in staff meetings and spreads to the entire parish community.

            Fr. Macadaeg now is rector of the Oakland’s Christ the Light Cathedral, an assignment he began July 1.

            If a parish is only a spot where people spend an hour a week, then hurry off in different directions without strengthening each other, the parish is much more likely to fail than if the community’s members interact with and strengthen each other.

            Parish revitalization was a recurring focus for a wide range of discussions and soul-searching at the Institute, which explores the current state of the Church and challenges of reform. More than 600 people participated, with 115 priests and bishops, including Oakland Bishop Michael Barber, SJ.

Patrick Lencioni, of Lafayette, is a successful business energizer who, in his faith life, formed The Amazing Parish program. He said bluntly “there is nothing remotely compassionate” about accepting mediocrity.  “The acceptance of mediocrity is unacceptable!”

That program has helped parishes begin to revitalize, using methods of energizing many business organizations. Core building blocks it uses are prayer, teamwork and active discipleship.

A key is getting people to interact in their religious lives.

“Teach people to talk about their faith lives to one another,” emphasizes Leoncioni. “Teach people to evangelize one another.”

            The Amazing Parish is one of several distinctive efforts to strengthen Catholic parishes and re-energizing the people in them.

Fr. James Mallon, vicar for parish renewal and leadership in the Archdiocese of Halifax/Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, “We will never succeed if we get angry with the world.”

There is a huge difference between maintenance and mission, he emphasizes.

“Most of our missionary work is like a fishing boat that stays in the harbor,” Fr. Mallon said. “The only fish it will catch are those that jump into the boat!

“If we are only maintaining, we become irrelevant!”

Leoncioni added “teach people to talk about their faith lives to one another. Teach people to evangelize one another.”

            “The parish should be a nuclear power plant of prayer!”

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