success stories

Title: Excellent Catholic Parishes
Author: Paul Wilkes
Paulist Press, Mawah, NJ 2001

Opening Paragraph:

If a person --- either clergy or lay --- were about to be assigned to a Catholic parish and could take only one book, I hope this is the one book that person would bring along. Call it a survival guide; call it a pattern for a successful parish. Excellent Catholic Parishes attempts to show both what a group of the most outstanding and inspiring parishes in America is doing and how successful approaches and programs can be replicated.

Table of Contents:

1. Our Lady Help of Christians --- Newton, Massachusetts
2. St. Pius X --- El Paso, Texas
3. Catholic Area Parishes --- Benson, DeGraff, Danvers, Clontarf, and Murdock, Minnesota
4. Holy Family --- Inverness, Illinois
5. St. Peter Claver --- New Orleans, Louisiana
6. St. Francis of Assisi --- Portland, Oregon
7. St. Francis of Assisi --- Wichita, Kansas
8. St. Mark’s --- Boise, Idaho

Common Traits of Excellent Parishes


Are Looked Upon as Missionary Outposts
Excellent parishes essentially see themselves as missionary outposts . . . . These parishes take time to understand the culture they are within and seek to meet the needs of the indigenous people whom they serve.
Maintaining the “Edge”
[Parishes] constantly scrutinize themselves with even the most elementary and embarrassing of questions.

Have a “Habit of Being”
[Habit of being] ranges from the warm welcome of the parish secretary on an initial phone call to making sure that a first-time visitor at a liturgy isn’t a stranger for long, from relevant homilies rooted in everyday experiences to religious education that is exciting and meetings that brim with expectation of what might be.

Are Accepting Forgiving
Excellent parishes are not only welcoming, but there is something in the air that says, “You are welcome here, whoever you are, whatever your circumstances might be.”

Are Innovative, Entrepreneurial
[Excellent parishes] see new and current needs and seek to meet these needs, whether it be appealing to the often unchurched, Generation Xer, educating delinquent kids, bringing a fractured community together or tapping the long-dormant desire for the authentic spirit of God.

Are Willing to Take Risks
[Excellent parishes] are not afraid of change or of new approaches. These parishes step outside the “comfort zone,” whether it be in boldly asking that members tithe, that teenagers be given a real reason to come to church, that evangelization be not just for fundamentalist Christians, that a neighborhood be transformed...

Are Willing to Make Mistakes
Excellent parishes do not fear failure.

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