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Posted November 22, 2005

Taken from Origins Nov. 17, 2005 Vol 35, #23

Indicators of a good parish

A viable parish will see itself as a eucharistic community where they celebrate the liturgy in a dignified and prayerful way, where they encounter the risen Christ and from which they take that presence of the risen Christ to their families, neighborhoods and workplaces. Worship is central to their spiritual life as a Christian people, and every parish is challenged to find ways to invite people and involve them in full, conscious and active participation.

In a viable parish:

– Well-planned and appropriately participative sacramental celebrations are carried out in an environment respectful of the cultural diversity of the people.

– The liturgy is celebrated with music, competently led and sung, which invites participation of the assembly.

– Homilies are instructive, challenging, well-prepared, clearly articulated and assist parishioners to apply the Scriptures and church teaching to their lives.

– The liturgical ministers are invited to and properly trained for their ministries, and the assembly is also formed for effective celebration of the liturgy.

– There is a liturgy committee which assists the pastor to prepare liturgies.

– A vital sacramental life is evident by regular celebration of the eucharist and opportunities for the sacrament of reconciliation and anointing of the sick (communal and individual).

Sufficient preparation is provided for the sacrament of marriage, in cooperation with programs offered through the diocese, and likewise, preparation for other sacraments.

– Various forms of devotional prayer are offered.

– Spiritual life is fostered through retreat/renewal programs, prayer groups and small faith-sharing groups, and participation in spiritual enrichment programs offered through the diocese is encouraged.

– Adequate resources are provided for this.

A viable parish is a faith community which fosters in each member a sense of belonging, ownership, responsibility, Christian growth and conversion. It recognizes that the essential mission of the faith community is evangelization. The atmosphere of the parish is one of inclusion and hospitality where parishioners find a home and welcome an invitation to become leaders, to serve in ministries and to help other members of the parish family. Parishioners recognize their gifts and as good stewards offer their gifts of time, talent and treasure for the good of the parish.

In a viable parish:

– All parishioners of all ages and cultures are welcomed and made to feel a part of the parish community; there is a sufficient number of members in their active years who participate productively in the parish ministry.

– There is a stewardship committee which promotes the ongoing education of parishioners about sharing their gifts as a faith response and meeting the ministry needs of the parish and the local civic community.

– The pastoral leadership encourages full collaboration among the people of God by assisting them to take an active, responsible role in the life of the parish and its activities and ministries.

– There are sufficient and qualified personnel as staff (who are paid just wages) and parishioner volunteers for program leadership, with training and ongoing formation provided for them.

– There is an active pastoral council and an active finance council, which meet regularly and advise the pastor, and there is training and ongoing formation provided for them.

– The parish encourages a theology of stewardship that promotes sacrifical giving.

– It has the financial resources necessary to carry out its mission; it is not preoccupied with financial matters and building maintenance at the expense of pastoral ministry; it has a prepared budget and meets its ordinary expenses in a timely fashion, maintains its plant and facilities in good condition, and is able to pay off any depths (including interest) on time; it meets its target in the Bishop’s Faith Appeal.

– Members see their baptism as the call to discipleship, with freedom to invite others to join the faith community; they reach out to the unchurched, alienated, nonpracticing and marginal Catholics.

– Clergy and laity have a deep sense of the importance of unity among the faithful in the parishes and with their diocesan bishop; all seek to collaborate in ministry with other parishes so that people are served more effectively, unnecessary duplication is eliminated and resources are utilized more wisely.

A vibrant parish reaches out to the world around it and genuinely cares about the needs of the poor and those who are less fortunate. It knows it must be a sharing community in order to bear the name Catholic. The members of a viable parish live out the values of their faith in the world, serving their sisters an brothers and working for greater justice and peace in the world. Empowered by their baptism, they serve in Jesus’ name, following the principles of Catholic social teaching.

In a viable parish:

– Parishioners are instructed about their baptismal responsibility to serve in Jesus’ name and are made aware of the social teachings of the Catholic faith through homilies and various educational opportunities.

– The members keep contact with shut-ins, the elderly, the ill and bring communion to those who are unable to attend the parish.

– Disadvantaged parishioners and others in the area can obtain assistance with their material needs.

– Members are involved in the life of their surrounding neighborhoods and are concerned with and active in ministries which promote equality, freedom, justice and peace.

– Parish groups reach out to local institutions (e.g. hospitals, nursing homes, prisons) and participate in out-reach programs in the local community.

– Parishioners serve the needy throughout the world by responding generously to appeals for international aid and by supporting the church’s missionary efforts with prayer and financial resources.

– All are encouraged to understand and guard the sacredness of life in all its stages from the womb to the tomb, and to protect the dignity of each human person.

A viable parish is committed to the religious and spiritual development of its adults, youth and children. Alone or in collaboration with other parishes, it is able to offer religious education/formation on all levels. Strong faith formation programs make it evident that every baptized person must continually be “conformed to Christ” in order to share fully the life of the church. The parish considers formation and development of leadership potential as essential so that individuals can become equipped to assume responsibilities in the parish. Parishioners recognize their baptismal call and take advantage of formation opportunities in the parish and on the diocesan level to mature in their faith.

In a viable parish:

– Educational programs assist parents in understanding and carrying out their primary role in the spiritual formation of their children.

– There are complete programs of religious education and sacramental preparation for adults, youth and children, and there are adequate funds, staff and space allotted for effective catechesis; collaborating with a neighboring parish(es) by combining programs or sharing competent staff is also pursued for better use of resources and grater effectiveness of ministry.

– There is a qualified director or coordinator of religious education (or one shared between parishes), and the parish encourages and provides opportunities for training and education for its catechists, especially through the diocesan CEMI courses and workshops.

– the parish supports its staff, lay ministers and volunteers with regular and ongoing training and formation and activities that enhance their faith life.

– Opportunities are encouraged and made available for the education and faith formation of parishioners and lay ministers, especially through the CEMI courses and workshops orthrough jointly sponsored programs of adult faith formation between/among neighboring parishes.

– Vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life are cultivated and supported.