Know Some Excellent Parishes of the Pandemic? There's an Award for That

Catholics can nominate their parishes for excellence awards in a variety of categories, which aim to recognize things like technological excellence to parish outreach and re-opened Mass protocols.

St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Narragansett, RI.
St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Narragansett, RI. (photo: Courtesy photo / St. Thomas More)

Scot Landry has worked for the Catholic Church for years. So he knows that diocesan and parish offices typically hear very little about what they’re doing well, and a lot about what's not going right.

“The ratio of compliments or gratitude or praise, to complaints...that ratio was in the complaint end of things, stronger than any other time of my life,” Landry told CNA, reflecting on his years working for the Archdiocese of Boston.

For years, Landry has wanted to do something to recognize parishes doing exemplary things, but it never seemed to be the right time.

This year, however, as a global pandemic shut down public Masses in many parts of the world, Landry said he watched parishes find new and creative ways to reach their flocks, and he wanted to celebrate that. That’s why Landry, in partnership with the Parish Excellence Summit and Good Catholic Leadership Group, created the first-ever Parish Excellence Awards.

“There was immediate mission-driven innovation related to continuing the parish’s sacramental and other ministries” in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Landry said in a release announcing the awards.

Catholics can nominate their parishes for excellence awards in a variety of categories, which aim to recognize things like technological excellence to parish outreach and re-opened Mass protocols. There are three “Broadcast Mass” categories alone.

“Most parishes have now turned into broadcasters,” Landry said, because of the temporary closure of public Masses throughout the United States this past spring.

Some parishes were “excellent on the technical side of things, and the broadcast is beautiful. Others were excellent at trying to maximize the number of parishioners who were watching the livestream. Others were good at solving the complexity of doing livestreams when they have a multilingual, multicultural community.”

The Parish Excellence Awards are similar to another national effort, by Mundelein Seminary, which earlier this month accepted nominations for “hero priests” of the pandemic, who went above and beyond to reach their flock in these unprecedented times.

Landry said while his idea wasn’t inspired by the “hero priest” awards, he was glad there are others who also wanted to recognize all that parishes have done for their people during this time.

“We do need to hold up people who are doing great work during the pandemic. I was glad to see that Mundelein was thinking of it,” Landry said.

Winners of the Parish Excellence Awards will be chosen by small committees of volunteers, Landry said, and will be announced at the Parish Excellence Summit, a virtual event held from Nov. 9-13. All who nominate their parish for an award will be invited to the Summit for free.

At the summit, Landry said he plans on presenting three awards each day, and showing video interviews with winners, who can give tips and pointers to other parishes wanting to model initiatives after ones that have been recognized for making a difference.

The summit will highlight the two reasons for the parish awards in the first place, Landry said, which is to recognize excellent parishes, and to pass on ideas for best practices to other parishes who are also striving for excellence.

“One of the ways to honor a parish that is innovative in a mission-driven way, is to learn from it,” Landry said. “Apply it to your own context and then help it to strengthen your own parish. We certainly hope...we wouldn't be doing this if that wasn't one of our big hopes at the end of it.”

Catholics can nominate parishes in 16 different categories through October 19.

And while the Parish Excellence Awards this year are specifically focused on innovation during the pandemic, Landry said he hopes the awards are something he can continue year after year.

“Winning people back after the pandemic, that could be a theme for next year,” he said. “As long as there’s a need to share what's working in some parishes with all the other parishes in the church, at least in the United States, we certainly have an interest in doing it.”

Michelangelo, “The Last Judgment,” 1536-1541

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