Books and programs come by about once a year that promise to rejuvenate the parish, save Catholic schools, cut down on the work load for the clergy, and in general bring about the parousia. Cynical might best describe the attitude this author has developed. Everyone gets all hot and bothered. Committees are set up. Programs are held. Speakers are brought in. Posters are made. Commitment weekends are staged. And there will be some amount of success at least for a time.
First important lesson I learned: Every program that promises to make less work for priests will inevitable cause a ton more work for priests. Period. Don’t even go there with me.
Secondly, of the ones that work well, they tend to be emphasized aspects of what we should already be doing. But it is kind of like lent; you can only keep the extra energy and focus up so long and then you fall back to a “ordinary time” state.
Now, I don’t want to put every program down and there will always be a couple of people whose lives were completely changed and now they are “active” parishioners. So there’s that. And I’m not saying I wouldn’t do another program, I probably just won’t put all my hosts in ciborium.
That being said there are two books that are making hot tracks around the diocese and as a diocese we are setting up programs to see what fruit will come from them. The first is “Forming Intentional Disciples.” The book upon which it is based, IMHO, could have probably been a pamphlet. But its message is great. We can’t be passive Catholics who go to Mass on the weekend. We must be God’s agents on earth whether that involves being active at Mass or telling your wayward nephew to get his keester to Mass. (That was snarky but you get the point.)
The other book about which you may want to be aware is “Rebuilt.” It is ideas from a pastor and his deacon who took a failing parish and breathed new life into it. They openly discuss their failures and successes. It is an interesting read. I think there are some great things to learn from it though I don’t know that I would buy the whole thing. (We have been talking about it at parish pastoral council.) And it is obvious that his parish is some place warm as they talk about having parking lot ministers. Try that in December in Ohio.
In any event, chances are these books or at least the ideas from these books are coming your way. Watch for them in a parish near you.