Revitalized Parishes as Centers of the New Evangelization

credit: Jaclyn Lippelmann, Catholic Standard

Parishes play an essential role in the Church’s mission of spreading the Gospel.  The 2012 Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization recognized that parishes are the places where so many people most experience the life of the Church. In the parish, one encounters Jesus in the initial proclamation of the Good News of salvation, in the Word, the sacraments, catechesis, fraternal communion, charitable outreach and more (Propositions 26 and 44). Whether located along city streets, in suburban neighborhoods or in the rural countryside, the parish also continues to be the primary presence of the Church in the greater community.

Occupying such a key place in our Gospel mission, one of the signs of the strength of the Church is the vitality of parishes.  Thus, the archdiocese developed a tool called the “Indicators of Vitality” to facilitate discernment by parish leadership and parishioners through a self-assessment in five crucial areas.  These indicators were also used at our Archdiocesan Synod to appraise the strength of this local Church as a whole.

The first indicator of vitality, worship, relates to liturgy, sacraments, renewal efforts, devotions, prayer and related opportunities provided by the parish. In these ways, the personal quest for God is met.  The second indicator, education, looks at all of the efforts to ensure that ongoing faith formation in the Church’s belief and teachings are provided to people of all ages through Catholic schools, parish religious education programs, sacramental preparation, adult faith formation, youth ministry, the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults and evangelization efforts.

The Church is the experience of communion with God and with one another through Christ. Thus, community life is another gauge of parish vitality.  This relates to efforts to recognize the diversity and needs of people and by actively including all parishioners, by reaching out to Catholics who may have fallen away from participation in the life of the Church, and going out into the local community to welcome others.  Similarly, the indicator of service asks how the parish community serves the poor, the marginalized, elderly people, hurting families, immigrants, people with disabilities, and other needy people in the community, by bringing Jesus’s love to our brothers and sisters and helping them experience the Good News of the Gospel.

Finally, since ability and effectiveness are essential to the accomplishment of any effort, the last indicator is administration. This involves practical aspects of Church life like leadership, stewardship, management and parish decision-making.

Through this self-examination process and working to revitalize themselves always, parishes are better equipped to be the best church they can be as they carry out the task of the New Evangelization to help people encounter the Risen Lord where they are.  This is an encounter that can renew hearts and lives.

This is the fifth installment in a six-part series on the New Evangelization.