home page links quotes statistics mission statement success stories resources Lighter Side Authors! Search Page
Posted April 22, 2009

Book: Pastoring Multple Parishes
Authors: Mark Mogilka and Kate Wiskus
Loyola Press, Chicago, IL, 2009. Pp. 169

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

With nearly half of U.S. parishes and missions sharing their pastor with another parish or mission, multiple-parish pastoring is the most common solution to the shortage of priests in the United States — that is, having one pastor serve the needs of two, three, or more different parishes at one time. Of interest to seasoned pastors, newly ordained, parish staff, and parishioners, Pastoring Mulitple Parishes offers the results of extensive research conducted for the Emerging Models of Pastoral Leadership Project.

Mark Mogilka and Kate Wiskus share with readers what works and what doesn’t when parishes share a pastor, offering practical advice to help Catholics see this growing trend as a wonderful opportunity for future stability and growth in faith..

An Excerpt from the Book:


Establishing and maintaining good communication topped the list of challenges identified by pastors and staffs. They said that it is an issue that must be addressed early on. A key issue is contact with the pastor. Pastors must initiate and maintain good communication with staffs that are not always at the same site.

St. Aloysius, St. Bernard, and St. Mark Parishes all had separate staffs and their own resident pastor before they were linked. Most issues and questions were handled with a phone call, a chance meeting at the parish hall, a walk down the hall and a spontaneous conversation, or a short discussion after Mass. When the parishes were linked, all that changed. The pastor was rarely down the hall. He had his offices at St. Mark’s. he came to St. Aloysius and St. Bernard once a week, but the timing wasn’t consistent. It often depended on his calendar and shifting pastoral care responsibilities. The short discussions after Mass were no longer an option because he always had to get on the road to make the next Mass.

The staff began to miss collaboration with the pastor. They felt separate, isolated, and sometimes even insignificant. The pastor, in turn, felt frustrated because he often didn’t know what was going on in the various ministries at each of the parishes, and he was missing out on opportunities to connect with the staff and parishioners in meaningful ways. Things blew up when staff at each parish scheduled sacramental parent sessions at the same time and expected the pastor to be at all three.

The pastor consulted a fellow pastor of multiple parishes about leading staffs in these situations. The first piece of advice the mentor offered was, “Schedule separate and joint staff meetings.” when the pastor said, “But my door is always open,” the mentoring pastor stood firm. “Your time with staff needs to be intentional; it needs to be scheduled.” A second piece of advice was equally important: “Set up a shared calendar.”

Initially, the going was bumpy, but in time, it smoothed out. The staffs learned to think ahead and bring their issues or concerns to the monthly meeting. They likewise learned to enter their events and meetings on the shared calendar to avoid double booking, and to refer to the master calendar to avoid double booking, and to refer to the master calendar for the linked parishes in the initial stages of program planning. At first, they opted for separate staff meetings for each parish, with a joint staff meeting quarterly. After a year, they unanimously agreed that they liked the joint meeting better because it allowed for, and even encouraged, collaborative efforts across parish boundaries and creatively simulated the staff members. The pastor felt that he benefitted the most. He saved time. But more importantly, he saw that by working together, he and the staffs would grow the parishes in faith and mission. He no longer felt that he had to go it alone.

Regular, scheduled meetings with the staffs are imperative in multiple-parish situations. They facilitate communication not only between staff and pastor. Joint staff meetings encourage collaboration across parish lines. This usually translates into more vibrant parishes, and pastor and staffs that feel more focused and less fragmented in their ministries. Regular staff meetings allow the pastor and staffs to minister proactively and to work toward establishing a unifying vision that encourages collaboration. Regular meetings should be undertaken as soon as possible in the linkage process. If staffs already have a meeting pattern, then initially that should be honored. Over time, a new pattern for meetings can be determined jointly.

Good communication goes beyond staff meetings. Not everything can be anticipated ahead of time and brought to staff meetings. Challenges arise that established policies cannot handle. Staff members need to know how to contact the pastor, and the pastor needs to know how to reach the staff. This can be difficult when staff members work part-time hours.

If each parish has its own staff, clear channels of communication need to be established and honored. Phone calls and personal meetings aren’t the only channels any longer. E-mail can be a great help in maintaining good communication between the staff members, the pastor, and a collaborative pastoral staff team. If the parishes don’t have internet accessibility at their offices, adding it deserves consideration. Text messaging is even becoming an option for pastoral staffs trying to stay in contact with one another. The agreed upon channels should be employed. Equally important to the question of how to communicate is the assurance of both staff and pastor that their messages will be responded to in a timely manner.

Table of Contents:

1. The context of multiple-parish pastoring

2. Moving from single to multiple parish ministry

3. Pastoral leadership

4. What tools can help? Pastoral skills worth nurturing

5. How to recruit, engage, and empower the pastoral staff

6. Models for multiple-parish ministry

7. If it’s working, what does it look like?

8. Best practices

9. Where do we go from here?

10. Job description for pastor and parish

Appendix A

Summary of pastoral leadership in multiple-parish ministry

Appendix B

Summary of pastoral leadership in multiple-parish ministry

Appendix C

A sample planning framework

Appendix D

A model for stress management and greater effectiveness in ministry