Catholic Extension, which works with people in America’s poorest regions, defines a thriving parish as a place where its people not only feel “welcomed,” but actually feel “at home,” where they are able to express who they truly are as a people of God and are empowered to live their mission in the world. In our experience, the pillars of a thriving congregation are found in a community where its people find beauty, fellowship, and mercy in abundance. Our program focuses on helping our parishes that serve marginalized communities to thrive in two main ways. First, we create new avenues for the marginalized faith communities in our network to share their beautiful traditions, art, and wisdom that are rarely seen or heard in the wider Church. Second, we seek to provide opportunities for leaders of these diverse parishes to be included in ecclesial gatherings that they are typically absent from due to cost or other obstacles. These convening opportunities provide diverse participants with opportunities to give greater clarity to their parishes’ mission and to share their values with the leaders of the wider Church, as well as the chance to glean insights and wisdom from others with whom they come in contact.
In 2017, Catholic Leadership Institute launched a groundbreaking initiative to comprehensively support thriving faith communities and their leaders: Next Generation Parish. This transformative four-year journey renews parish life, fosters engagement among parishioners, strengthens parish identity, deepens relationships with God, and encourages a missional love that pours out into the larger community and the world. The pilot is at work in five founding dioceses: Orlando, Jackson, Biloxi, Fort Wayne-South Bend, and Philadelphia. Catholic Leadership Institute is in a position to learn more, do more, and share more support, data, and visionary leadership with our Church. Catholic Leadership Institute is poised to extend the reach of Next Generation Parish and the learnings gleaned from this dynamic initiative to more dioceses and parishes across the country who are ready to look to the next generation and face the future with fortitude, faith, and a solid foundation upon which to build.
Instituto Fe y Vida is a Catholic, nimble, and strategic ministry founded in 1994 by the De La Salle Christian Brothers and a group of Hispanic pastoral professionals. Its mission is to equip pastoral ministers, young adult leaders, and parents for the evangelization of young Catholic Latinos. The purpose of the Thriving Catholic Parishes Program is to help parishes with a significant Latino population to thrive, thanks to a dynamic, integrative, and continuous ministry with young people, including parishioners from other ethnic groups. The TCP has three stages: preparation, implementation, and groundwork for sustainability. A core team, a leadership team, and the broader parish community, particularly parents, will participate in processes leading to: (a) assessing external and internal social and cultural changes that impact the community; (b) revitalizing ministry with young people to nurture their human and Christian development as they take on an active role and leadership in the parish; and (c) developing a pastoral plan with clear parish values, priorities, goals, and organizational restructuring to achieve them. In year four of the grant, a national convocation with delegates from the parishes in the cohorts, national leaders, and members of Fe y Vida’s pastoral team will gather the learning community to enhance the TCP and export best practices.
Marian University's Initiative for Parish Renewal / Iniciativa Parrochial Renovación (Renovación) equips pastoral leadership teams to transform Latin@-serving parishes into thriving missionary communities, together with their congregations, in service to the world through theological education and innovative ministerial practices. It does this by supporting pastors in collaborative ministry, providing lay Latin@ leaders with theological education, leading parishioners through a retreat process of discernment and empowerment, creating small comunidades parroquiales to support the spiritual lives of families, implementing innovative mission plans with sensitivity to the needs of the parishes and to serve the local community, and gathering parishes for a fiesta of faith and experience of the larger Renovación experience. Through these programs, Renovación engages all areas of parish life in a comprehensive process of renewal, moving from the pastor to individual families in ways best suited for members of the congregation. Renovación equips parish leadership teams to lead with theologically rooted, innovative pastoral leadership practices, coming from and implemented with the community (teología y pastoral de y en conjunto), that empower them to embrace the "missionary option," promote transformational biblical leaders, and serve their local communities.
The Roman Catholic Church in central Minnesota finds itself in a challenging and exciting time. During 2018-2019 the Diocese of Saint Cloud, in consultation with Saint John's School of Theology and Seminary, restructured 131 parishes into 29 Area Catholic Communities (ACC) to provide for the pastoral and spiritual needs of its 123,475 baptized Catholics. The partners are eager to build intercultural bridges with local faith communities and foster a culture of co-responsibility. This will require a substantive shift and expansion in mindset. What needs to be formed is not merely an ACC with more programs but an ACC that is a learning community with a vision of thriving, and a capacity to live into that vision. Our initiative will form Thriving Resource Teams who will gain skills in facilitating systemic, organizational change to foster ACCs as a learning community while keeping its finger on the pulse of Christian practices that lead to thriving and co-responsibility for the mission. Equipped as trainers the teams will accompany Thriving Learning Communities (TLCs) who are the 'feet on the ground' in this initiative. The TLCs will form among ACCs to stay aware of the changing social and cultural context of their community and to pastorally plan for their mission by igniting pastoral imagination, fostering mature discipleship, using digital Church demographic tools, and reenergizing Christian practices for thriving community life.
In the face of real-world forces that are affecting African American congregations in Chicago and across our nation, we will develop an initiative that seeks to celebrate the legacy and gifts of black Catholic spirituality and infuse our communities with a renewed hope for the future. Saint Ambrose and Saint Thomas the Apostle Catholic Churches, both located on the south side of Chicago, will establish the Tolton Spirituality Center, a non-profit clearinghouse and community hub that will draw upon the life and legacy of Augustus Tolton -- a former slave and the first black priest in the United States -- to move congregations from surviving to thriving. Through the formation of parish-based leadership teams and supported by the community partners, the Center will strengthen existing efforts and develop new programs and ministries to animate the tangible gifts, spiritual graces, and prophetic witness of Father Tolton. Working as a model, this collaborative learning journey will provide the educational and practical resources to help black Catholic parishes on the south side understand and apply the fundamental principles and practices of Tolton spirituality as they reaffirm core values to build a more sustainable and mission-focused Church.