Twenty years ago, I was at a point in my life when many of the goals and milestones that had guided my early adulthood began to feel less meaningful. I prayed for God to illuminate the path ahead and show me His plan for my future. I had a deep hunch that there was plenty of important work for me to do in the area of religion and faith, but I wondered: How could I best serve the Church?
The answer that came to me also assumed the form of a question: Where is Catholic faith experienced? Where has it been lived, day-to-day, by the most people for centuries? In the local community of believers. In the parish. As the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops writes, “Parishes are the home of the Christian community; they are the heart of our Church. Parishes are the place where God’s people meet Jesus in word and sacrament and come in touch with the source of the Church’s life.”
And so, Parish Catalyst was born.
Modeled off of our Evangelical “big brother” Leadership Network, Parish Catalyst invites pastors with demonstrated creative leadership skills and key members of their pastoral teams to join a Parish Catalyst Learning Community. We then foster an environment where participants challenge each other to capitalize on new ideas and stretch their visions of ministry beyond the current strategies in play at their parishes.
While each Learning Community works directly with only a few, our purpose is to influence the many. Often innovation begins with a small number of visionary thinkers, “influencers” whose success encourages others to follow suit. Thus the parishes in our program serve as testing grounds for new approaches to ministry, which they can hone before sharing them with other communities. Already the parishes which have participated in our Learning Communities are becoming churches of “radical hospitality” with an enriched prayer life, clearer goals, stronger leadership, and a more active outreach to young adults.
Our current goal is to launch at least two new Learning Communities per year for the next ten years. Our hope is that if we can impact at least 300 Catholic parishes, we will ignite a flame that will continue to revitalize and grow the Catholic Church.
-Bill Simon, Founder and Chairman, Parish Catalyst