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A Catholic parish, in line with Catholic tradition, should seek to do all things excellently. How does a non-profit become an incredible non-profit?

  • By having a vision, grounded in the mission Christ gave to the disciples: “Go out to all the world and share the good news.”
    • The good news is Christ, his friendship with us (“I no longer call you servants”), the Sacraments (“Do this in memory of me.”), and the call to sanctity (“Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect”).
  • By having a strategic plan to implement that vision.
    • Through small groups, through availability of the sacraments, by absolute integrity among clergy, staff and volunteers to practice what they preach, through going out into the hovels to find guests for the wedding feast.
  • By having business procedures that are clear, well-stated and professional.
    • We have been personally harmed by a parish administrator who disagreed with my husband’s job description and altered his time card. Employees were not instructed on how to present a complaint. No chain of command is discussed.
    • My husband was also fired without a warning. A three step plan should be in place in every parish that consist of a verbal warning (issued in memo), a written warning, and termination (with exceptions for grievous cases,).
    • I was hired as a receptionist as a young adult, without training, given only a binder to direct me in how to provide resources to those who came in for food, shelter, or bus fare.
  • By operating with transparency, professional and financial, with a clear process of clergy and staff accountability made clear to staff and volunteers.
  • By being plugged into the community, forging community partnerships with other non-profit agencies.
    • Staff and volunteers should be well versed on what other resources are in the community. This will help unburden the parish that operates alone.
    • Clergy should meet monthly or quarterly with other pastoral leaders in the community.
    • Parishes should have visible participation in city events such as community fairs, annual food festivals, and parades.
    • The parish should seek ways to advertise parish events throughout the city.
    • Parishes should offer free community events such as potlucks, rummage sales that benefit the families running their own booths, and craft fairs. Fundraising is important, but there should be a distinction between fundraising events and events meant to benefit parishioners. Both are possible, with a community focus.
  • A parish and its leaders should be open to innovation. Giving youth and young adults meaningful roles, reaching out to young families who may have much to give, but little time to give it, tapping into the incredible resource of single adults who have the intelligence and maturity and time allowance many young parents do not.
    • There are parishes where new ideas are not respected, the core group of parishioners have become a clique. This is the most closed approach I can imagine and evangelization will fail.
    • At every level people, volunteers and staff should be informed
      • Through the parish website, social media, weekly bulletin
      • Through “Agency” meetings that include all volunteers and staff members
      • Through “Program meetings” for staff only and individual ministries respectively.
      • At each level, everyone should be informed that their comments, and input are welcome, with collaboration as a core strength of the parish.
    • Given the state of Catholicism today and the struggle many parishes have in financing their project, parishes should seek ways to earn revenue that does not rely solely on donations.
      • This can be done through savings and interest, partnerships and smartly renting land or facilities if the parish has such resources.
      • The parish should never compromise it’s Catholic identity, but relying on the freedom of speech make visible its identify in the facilities it rents.

Tasting Room at Benedictine Monastery in Italy

A failing business or non-profit is the one that people or clients walk away from and have the feeling the proprietors wish they would never have come in, the salesperson who seems like he cannot be bothered with a sale. Many Catholic parishes, overworked and under-organized are at risk of presenting this message, not the message of evangelization.

It is a new time in the Church, a time of trial and a time of great fruitfulness. George Weigel’s phenomenal and practical book, Evangelical Catholicism, provides some framework for the reform needed in this Church, particularly in American Catholicism.

In some ways, it seems, we need only to care: to care about the quality of music, the beauty of the sacred space, the upholding of tradition and the openness to what that Church is about today, to the work of evangelization. If we truly care, we can create a plan.