‘Amazing Parish’ inaugural conference to be held in Denver

CNA – A new movement seeking to unite the faithful and their pastors in the formation of thriving parishes has seen a wide scope of interest throughout the U.S. in the time since it was started little more than a year ago.

“The response has been great,” Pat Lencioni, one of the founders, told CNA.

The Amazing Parish movement seeks to give Catholic leaders, both clergy and lay, the resources and support they need to create strong, fruitful parishes.

“For most Catholics, the parish is where they come to know Christ and the Church. If parishes aren’t vibrant and strong, it’s really tough for most Catholics to connect with their faith,” Lencioni said.

The movement will have its first conference Aug. 27-28 in Denver, but before the leaders had a chance to publically advertise, the 500 person capacity had already been reached simply by word of mouth.

“Praise God, the Holy Spirit just made something happen,” he said.

Pastors and their staff from some 115 parishes across the country will gather to hear talks and brainstorm with other parishes about what makes a parish great.

The foundation of the movement is the Amazing Parish website, which lays out a model of what makes up an amazing parish as well as related resources.

“It’s a simple website that says, ‘listen, all we want to do is make parishes amazing and help you make your parish amazing,’” Lencioni said.

He pointed out the importance of encouraging the laity to get more involved in their parishes to work alongside their pastors toward the same goal.

“The Church is everyone, and with great respect for the authority of a pastor of a parish and for his vocation and his dedication, we have to recognize that if we think he’s going to do it on his own, we’re putting him in a position of great struggle and suffering.”

“The laity have to step up.”

The website highlights seven traits, including a foundation of three main elements: reliance on prayer, teamwork, and a cohesive vision for the parish. The Sunday experience, compelling faith formation, small groups and evangelization make up the final traits of a strong parish, according to the movement.

After the three foundational elements comes the “Sunday experience.” which centers on Mass, and extends to anything from the greeters at the front door of the church to the priest’s homily.

Lencioni said the website has been “put together by a bunch of devout lay people who love the Church,” and is meant to be “a holistic model and set of resources that any parish can access and utilize for free.

Programs that are recommended on the website must be “faithful to Church teaching and excellent,” Lencioni said.

While many programs geared towards parish life are already available, they’re often disconnected from one another, he lamented.

The Amazing Parish website puts dozens of resources – from adult faith formation programs to sacramental preparation – in one place along with original content explaining how to implement them from speakers and authors such as Matthew Kelly, Jeff Cavins and Chris Stefanick, syndicated columnist for the Denver Catholic Register.

COMING UP: Q&A: USCCB clarifies intent behind bishops’ Eucharist document

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Last week, the U.S. bishop concluded their annual Spring meeting, during which much about the Church in the U.S was discussed. In particular, the bishops voted to draft a document on the meaning of Eucharistic life in the Church, which was approved by an overwhelming majority.

Since then, speculation about the nature of the document has run rampant, the chief of which is that it was drafted specifically to instigate a policy aimed directly at Catholic politicians and public figures whose outward political expressions and policy enactment do not align with Church teaching.

The USCCB has issued a brief Q&A clarifying the intent of the document, and they have emphasized that “the question of whether or not to deny any individual or groups Holy Communion was not on the ballot.”

“The Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life,” the USCCB said. “The importance of nurturing an ever
deeper understanding of the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist in our lives is not a new topic for the bishops. The document being drafted is not meant to be disciplinary in nature, nor is it targeted at any one individual or class of persons. It will include a section on the Church’s teaching on the responsibility of every Catholic, including bishops, to live in accordance with the truth, goodness and beauty of the Eucharist we celebrate.”

Below are a few commonly asked questions about last week’s meeting and the document on the Eucharist.

Why are the bishops doing this now?

For some time now, a major concern of the bishops has been the declining belief and understanding of the Eucharist among the Catholic faithful. This was a deep enough concern that the theme of the bishops’ strategic plan for 2021-2024 is Created Anew by the Body and Blood of Christ: Source of Our Healing and Hope. This important document on the Eucharist will serve as a foundation for the multi-year Eucharistic Revival Project, a major national effort to reignite Eucharistic faith in our country. It was clear from the intensity and passion expressed in the individual interventions made by the bishops during last week’s meeting that each bishop deeply loves the Eucharist.

Did the bishops vote to ban politicians from receiving Holy Communion?

No, this was not up for vote or debate. The bishops made no decision about barring anyone from receiving Holy Communion. Each Catholic — regardless of whether they hold public office or not — is called to continual conversion, and the U.S. bishops have repeatedly emphasized the obligation of all Catholics to support human life and dignity and other fundamental principles of Catholic moral and social teaching.

Are the bishops going to issue a national policy on withholding Communion from politicians?

No. There will be no national policy on withholding Communion from politicians. The intent is to present a clear understanding of the Church’s teachings to bring heightened awareness among the faithful of how the Eucharist can transform our lives and bring us closer to our creator and the life he wants for us.

Did the Vatican tell the bishops not to move forward on drafting the document?

No. The Holy See did encourage the bishops to engage in dialogue and broad consultation. Last week’s meeting was the first part of that process. It is important to note that collaboration and consultation among the bishops will be key in the drafting of this document.


Featured photo by Eric Mok on Unsplash