DENVER — A new movement seeking to unite the faithful and their pastors in the formation of thriving parishes has seen a wide scope of interest throughout the U.S. in the time since it was started a little more than a year ago.
“The response has been great,” Pat Lencioni, one of the founders, told CNA.
The Amazing Parish movement seeks to give Catholic leaders, both clergy and lay, the resources and support they need to create strong, fruitful parishes.
“For most Catholics, the parish is where they come to know Christ and the Church. If parishes aren’t vibrant and strong, it’s really tough for most Catholics to connect with their faith,” Lencioni said.
The movement will have its first conference Aug. 27-28 in Denver, but before the leaders had a chance to publicly advertise, the 500-person capacity had already been reached simply by word of mouth.
“Praise God, the Holy Spirit just made something happen,” he said.
Pastors and their staff from some 115 parishes across the country will gather to hear talks and brainstorm with other parishes about what makes a parish great.
The foundation of the movement is the Amazing Parish website, which lays out a model of what makes up an amazing parish, as well as related resources.
“It’s a simple website that says, ‘Listen, all we want to do is make parishes amazing and help you make your parish amazing,’” Lencioni said.
He pointed out the importance of encouraging the laity to get more involved in their parishes to work alongside their pastors toward the same goal.
“The Church is everyone, and with great respect for the authority of a pastor of a parish and for his vocation and his dedication, we have to recognize that if we think he’s going to do it on his own, we’re putting him in a position of great struggle and suffering. The laity have to step up.”
The website highlights seven traits, including a foundation of three main elements: reliance on prayer, teamwork and a cohesive vision for the parish. The Sunday experience, compelling faith formation, small groups and evangelization make up the final traits of a strong parish, according to the movement.
After the three foundational elements comes the “Sunday experience,” which centers on Mass, and extends to anything from the greeters at the front door of the church to the priest’s homily.
Lencioni said the website has been “put together by a bunch of devout laypeople who love the Church” and is meant to be “a holistic model and set of resources that any parish can access and utilize for free."
Programs that are recommended on the website must be “faithful to Church teaching and excellent,” Lencioni said.
While many programs geared towards parish life are already available, they’re often disconnected from one another, he said.
The Amazing Parish website puts dozens of resources (from adult faith-formation programs to sacramental preparation) in one place, along with original content, explaining how to implement them from Catholic speakers and authors such as Matthew Kelly, Chris Stefanick and Jeff Cavins.