Tuesday, February 18, 2014

What do I want from my parish?




Over at Snoring Scholar I noticed that Lisa Hendey (the godmother of the Catholic mom blogosphere) and Sarah Reinhard were looking for short videos that discussed what we want from our parishes. I decided to participate and, with Lisa's okay, I'm also posting my video here.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on my ideas and to hear what you want from your parishes.

Let's have a conversation in the combox.


32 comments:

  1. Well first of all, I had to watch this video twice because the first time I wasn't paying attention to what you were saying because I was trying to figure out how your hair is done. It looks so cute! I kept yelling to the screen, "Turn your head a little bit Bonnie, I want to see your hair!"..Love it! I finally watched the video again to hear your thoughts and I love your idea of a mentorship program for parishes. I wish my parish had a young mom's group or a "first 10 years of marriage" group. I know a lot of parishes have these types of groups, but unfortunately mine does not. A while back I was going to talk to my priest about these ideas, but then things got in the way like him leaving our parish after being there for 12 years, and me having another baby.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I want doughnuts after mass! No, but seriously, it's hard to meet families at our parish and all their events are at night... Not so easy with the littles. So I think doughnuts would solve all my problems!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We used to attend a parish that did coffee and donuts after Mass and it really is a great way to meet people in the parish! In this particular community, you could connect with your peers as well as with those veteran moms that mentor you and whose kids make great babysitters :) So I am in favor of donuts for everyone! Its just an excuse, really, to get people together in a low-key way. And people need those kinds of opportunities to meet, casually, but consistently, to get to know each other without any pressure, for a real community life to take root. In my opinion- ahem. Anyway, we've since moved out of state, and really hope to have that kind of community again in our parish.

      Delete
    2. Our parish used to do donuts after one mass a month and the beauty of it was that it was so SIMPLE. Get donuts, some drinks, and voila. People will stick around and eat. And while they eat, they will talk.

      But the problem HERE is that now I'm hungry. :)

      Thanks for sharing the video, Bonnie, and for everyone who comments!!! :)

      Delete
    3. I agree that simple events are so important - and the essence of all of those (and the great ideas Bonnie shared) are helping to return parish life to the centerpiece of Catholic family life, rather than just one of the many activities a family happens to shuffle to during the week. I get the sense that a few generations ago this was the case (people went to church for far more than just weekly Mass - it was the source of their community) and we've had a downward spiral of people not going to events, so fewer events are scheduled, so it's more difficult to find an event to go to, etc. etc.! Donuts can be the first step in the spiral back up ;)

      Delete
  3. Those are excellent ideas, Bonnie!

    I'd like mine to have a Bible study where they had childcare. I'd also love it if we could have someone staffing the nursery during worship which would make it easier on me.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I have lots of ideas of what I would like in a parish, but mine is so new, we don't have many resources to draw from. But as a starter, I would like for my parish to not empty out three minutes after Mass and I would like for more than a handful of people to show up for parish activities.

    ReplyDelete
  5. All the coffee and donuts comments are interesting to me. I've been to coffee and donuts and big and small parishes and I think it is a good first step, something small to bring in the young and the old, new and regular parishioners.

    We have coffee and donuts at my church and my whole family likes it. But to really build up people in their faith, in their commitment to Christ, in their vocations - I sincerely believe that coffee and donuts is not gonna cut it.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I agree that coffee and donuts are not going to cut it, but when you don't even have that much, you have to start somewhere.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Yes! Amen, Bonnie! I am so with you on this, sister. I agree on all three of your ideas. Especially the small groups where you can build friendships, pray together, encourage each other, hold one another accountable...so invaluable. I wish my Parish had those, too!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Coffee and donuts are a plus. That was something I remember from my parish growing up, and when you spend most of Mass looking at the back of people's heads, it was nice to see faces for a few minutes afterwards instead of everyone walking out to their cars. In reality, I just want my home parish again. Maybe it is just comforting to me because it was all I knew for 18 years, but I have not been to a parish since then that has felt the same. This includes two of the biggest "best" (most active and financially well off) parishes in Chicago, and a strong parish that we belong to here in Peoria. It could be a small town thing compared to a city. I just want to feel at home. Like in Cheers, where everybody knows your name.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm still sitting here thinking about this question, and I'm just going to have to write about it to fully sort out my thoughts. For me, it comes down to three things, and it's not more programming.
      -Tradition, feeling like you are part of something, knowing what to expect each year, not always trying new things but instead working hard to sustain and improve upon what you have
      -Conviction of the priest, strong leadership
      -Appreciation of all parishioners and whatever/whenever they give of their time, talent, and treasure

      Delete
    2. Marie, I think those are 3 very powerful ideas. I think Tradition can be a tough one because sometimes an "older" crowd will be satisfied with the status quo and not want to improve things. "It's fine the way it is. This is how we've always done it." But you are very right in saying that we need to sustain and improve what we have. I think, essentially, that's what I'm saying with - say - RCIA. The group is already there, just keep it going and improve how it's done.

      I'm glad you commented. I really appreciate you coming back.

      Delete
  9. Love the small group idea! I belonged to a small group in college and LOVED it and really miss it. I know some parishes as part of marriage prep you will meet with "sponsor couples" basically what you are describing but I think after you're done with marriage prep and get married the relationship kind of dwindles which is sad.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is sad that the relationship dwindles. I mean, once the marriage begins is when things can get really tough, right?

      Delete
  10. Great ideas, Bonnie! I wish I had a mentor during RCIA and after (we met our sponsor the week before Easter...I don't remember his name!) and knew exactly ONE Catholic to be a godparent when we got our firstborn baptized. I wish I had a Catholic woman to mentor me then (and now).

    ReplyDelete
  11. I am in favor of donuts because it 1) gives kids something to look forward to after sitting for an hour (I am a Catholic today because donuts got me through Mass as a kid) and 2) it provides a catalyst for community in a low-impact way. My parish in NYC does a Martini potluck once a month after Sunday night Mass for the same reason. You need to give people low barriers to encountering community. You build from there as people know each other, germinate ideas and network within the parish to tackle issues. Donuts--a startup incubator, if you will.

    Also, I hate it when people speak about programming they want or complain about parish services without being involved as a volunteer. Want something--start it. Bloom where you are planted is as Catholic as Christ. We are called to make each parish better. Thinking that "Father/someone else should/will do it" makes me CRAZY.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree about volunteering. I've been known to paraphrase Ghandi and say "You must be the change you wish to see in your parish." And I agree with you about why you favor coffee and donuts. My frustration lies in Catholics who are happy with coffee and donuts. That's all they want or perhaps they can't even dream of something bigger.

      I like the term "start up incubator" too. :)

      Delete
  12. I think coffee and donuts are a good first step, but I think you need more than that to build community. I love the idea of family small groups, where a few familes get together on a regular basis to share a meal and a discussion. I also think free childcare is awesome. Our parish offers a few events (NFP talks, etc.) where free childcare if provides and it just makes it SO MUCH easier to attend with kids.

    I would also like to see more parishes host things like Catholic homeschool groups, mother's playgroups, mother's rosary groups or bible study (with childcare provides), things like that.

    I also agree about being the change you want to be, and volunteering to start something. It really does only take 1 person

    ReplyDelete
  13. ** Stop taking short cuts with the liturgy and acquiescing to the poorly catechized Catholics sitting in the pews out of fear they'll leave behind the "smells and bells" for the mega e-free church down the street with its coffee bar and praise band concerts. I better stop there with this point.

    ** 70% of those who become Catholic via RCIA don't return. For many parishes, RCIA is treated as a *program* and not a way of life. Of course, it must function as a program in the sense that there's a timeframe, a process, an outcome desired, etc. However, at the end of the classes at the time of initiation, can those who've journeyed through confidently state they have discovered a whole new way of life? Shouldn't that be the goal of every RCIA program? To lead seekers to a new way of life and broaden their awareness of the richness the Church has protected since Christ? Many parishes just skim the surface and are afraid to utter words such as purgatory. Time is ripe for a smarter, more rigorous introduction to Catholicism via the RCIA process.

    ** I see very high value in parishes forming "intentional disciples" as Sherry Weddell so eloquently writes and speaks about in her Called & Gifted workshops (http://www.siena.org/). I feel strongly that this could be transformative for the Church, at least here in America.

    ** I really like your suggestion about mentoring young couples.

    ReplyDelete
  14. This is a great topic, especially in light of the idea of a "new evangelization."

    I'd love a strong pastor who is not afraid to speak the truth to his parishioners. A parish that is supportive of young families would be ideal too. This can be hard when the majority of churchgoers tend to be slightly older (at least in my parish).

    I used to really want a mothers prayer group, basically an opportunity to pray with other moms and a chance to socialize and make friends. So...I started one. Not to pat myself on the back or anything, but I think if we really want these things, we're going to have to be the ones to go out and start then. If not us, then who?

    I'd also really like to get a children's holy hour (or more like half hour) started, so that's our mothers' groups next project.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I want a beautiful and faithful liturgy, but outside of the Mass, I want a space where my kids can run around with other kids and be excited to see their friends while we grownups get to visit too. That's what community is for us!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Our new parish has some really awesome things going on: Perpetual Adoration chapel, Dave Ramsey class in both English and Spanish, a new family catechesis program called Strong Catholic Families, etc. But a couple things I wish we had:

    -A pastor (No kidding. We have a few deacons, a retired priest-in-residence, and an associate pastor, but no actual pastor. And we are in a BIG parish!)

    -Confession before or after Mass. Here's my reasoning: you're more likely to get people there to when they're going to be there for Mass anyway, AND the more people see other people going to confession, the more they will realize it's "normal" and be inclined to go themselves. This happened to our parish in Korea and it was awesome.

    -Small family groups, as others have mentioned. I have met a number of other families from our parish through a completely unrelated homeschool group. If I wasn't a part of that group, I would probably know half the people I do now. That's not good school families, you know?

    ReplyDelete
  17. Foster relationships. Strong leadership from my parish priest. Great catechesis. Action. I would love to see the check in/check out for one hour on Sunday morning people engaged. Outreach to the community, especially the senior citizens.
    And while I am dreaming, I would like to see the church returned to a much more important position in the family. We have to convince people to turn off their technology and come and spend time with others- at church, learning, engaged, and having fun.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I would like one of the masses to be more traditional. We have 3 Sunday masses---one typical, one with more "contemporary" music (bongos anyone?), and one aimed at the college students. What I wouldn't give for just one of them to be a traditional solemn mass. Not asking for Latin, just something less "modern". Something more like you see on EWTN.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This sounds great! I believe there's a church about an hour away that does this and we have yet to get out to it. I would love to have this option.

      Delete
  19. This post makes me feel very fortunate for the 5 Catholic churches located in our fairly small college town area. The church we attend is the one we attended as students here; it is mostly students who wish to deepen their faith life and there is literally everything you could ever want: 3 faithful, smart, and involved priests, countless activities, and a large mainly student congregation that *wants* to be there in every way. It's powerful stuff and after being here, my husband and I have talked about how difficult it will be to move elsewhere and leave this absolute blessing that's transformed our lives behind.

    The other churches in the area are much more family friendly, and there are a ton of activities for new moms, men only, women only, adult continuing education, retreats, and strong religious education programs for the kiddos.

    After being blessed with these churches, there are a few things I think I will always want from any future parishes:

    1. A priest (or priests) who actively participate in others deepening their faith. I love seeing priests who have relationships with individuals and families and a vested interest in where they're at and where they wish to be. It makes me feel welcome and cared for.
    2. At least a few activities for adults, and activities that aren't too inclusive. It's so sad when there's a separation between those who do EVERYTHING for the church and those who are new or don't know how to get involved because people aren't so welcoming. At my previous churches in Connecticut, this was a real problem for our family.
    3. Lots of activities/an interactive religious education for the kiddos. I barely remember a thing about my time in religious education when I was younger and I think that's because there wasn't a whole lot of interaction encouraged. You were taught something, did your little activity, and that was it. Another important thing is a strong youth group. I really strayed away from my faith in high school because the aforementioned CT churches had nothing for young people.

    Great conversation starter!

    ReplyDelete
  20. I definitely do not think that *all* a parish should offer is coffee and donuts. Someone else had commented that she thought donuts could solve her problem of wanting to meet people, and I just wanted to encourage her and say that yes, it just might! In my experience, that can actually be a real component of forming a vibrant community life in a parish. And having a strong vibrant community life is, actually, a big dream... Maybe it is "just" coffee and donuts, or toast in a fancy restaurant, but it *can* be an opportunity for the kids to play while the adults get a chance to meet, catch up, get to know each other, and develop authentic relationships. Its not really about the donuts, its about the time spent together, and that time spent together is valuable to a growing relationship. Its just like the fact that is actually very important for wives to hang out on the couch talking to their husbands. That might seem like something simple, but it is a very important part of family life. To keep going with the comparison to family life, there are days when you really just need that couch time, other nights you might go out on a date. Sometimes you plan something fun for the kids to do, and other times the kids just play. But the 'just hanging out' and the 'just playing' are important to the life of the family, as is the date night and all the other things families do. All that time together, Be-ing together, is good for your relationships. I really think the same is true in the parish. When families are used to just spending time together after Mass, just being together, it can be good for the community life and for all the many other, very important, ministries that a parish offers. Do I dream other dreams for our parishes, for our pastors, for our communities? Absolutely. I definitely do not think that *all* a parish should offer is coffee and donuts. Someone else had commented that she thought donuts could solve her problem of wanting to meet people, and I just wanted to encourage her and say that yes, it just might! In my experience, that can actually be a real component of forming a vibrant community life in a parish. And having a strong vibrant community life is, actually, a big dream... Maybe it is "just" coffee and donuts, or toast in a fancy restaurant, but it *can* be an opportunity for the kids to play while the adults get a chance to meet, catch up, get to know each other, and develop authentic relationships. Its not really about the donuts, its about the time spent together, and that time spent together is valuable to a growing relationship. Its just like the fact that is actually very important for wives to hang out on the couch talking to their husbands. That might seem like something simple, but it is a very important part of family life. To keep going with the comparison to family life, there are days when you really just need that couch time, other nights you might go out on a date. Sometimes you plan something fun for the kids to do, and other times the kids just play. But the 'just hanging out' and the 'just playing' are important to the life of the family, as is the date night and all the other things families do. All that time together, Be-ing together, is good for your relationships. I really think the same is true in the parish. When families are used to just spending time together after Mass, just being together, it can be good for the community life and for all the many other, very important, ministries that a parish offers. Do I dream other dreams for our parishes, for our pastors, for our communities? Absolutely. That just wasn't the point I was trying to make in my comment.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Very well said. I grew up in parishes where all the families stood around and talked and us kids ran around and played. That was where friendships were formed, the friendships that helped each other, that encouraged each other! At our church there is nothing like this. They have formal classes at night, and that is very difficult for families with young children to participate in. When Families start connecting with each other they will be more connected to the parish. More connections = more money, more volunteers, and more participants in everything for the parish. Families need to know and love each other!

      Delete
  21. I'd like for my parish to teach more about NFP. My husband and I were just married in the Catholic Church, and all that our preparation included was meeting with a sponsor couple four times before the wedding. At the end of the last meeting, they slid a pamphlet on NFP across their dining room table and said something to the effect of "So, uh, this is what the church, uh, recommends." And that was it! Our parish is very traditional (we use the communion rail, we offer a Latin high mass, etc.) so I was shocked that we weren't given more information on something that I believe to be central to a married couple's life.
    (On that note, an NFP support group might be nice, because WOW this is not as easy as I thought it would be!)

    ReplyDelete
  22. Your suggestions are great. My parents ensured I received regular religious "education" (weekly catechism classes), but were not avid practicers of the faith. (Re: My mom made some comment to me in college to the effect of, "What, are you going to wait 'til you get married to have sex?" ...Um...aren't you supposed to encourage that?!) Anyway. Since completing formal religious education upon receipt of Confirmation, it has been difficult to find a real connection with most of the churches I have attended in different states over the years. I think the closest I came to being a member of a church community was back in college when I attended some of the campus ministry events. Establishing that mentorship program for all stages of life, I think, would really help with developing a connection to a specific church parish. My friends' parents were mentor couples for engaged couples, but I didn't marry in that parish so I didn't receive that luxury. Nowdays, my husband and I sort of bounce around between a small parish (closest to our house) and a medium one (a little farther away). I would really like to establish our family as members of a specific parish, but I can't seem to figure out exactly what is supposed to be the deciding factor in which to choose...

    ReplyDelete