This is one of those times of year where people who don’t usually attend church may find themselves attending services. Maybe it’s part of a family visit. Maybe it’s tradition. Maybe it’s an itch in need of scratching. Or maybe it’s a desire. Whatever the cause, it could be fuel for civic renewal.
While the country seems obsessed with what’s happening in Washington, D.C. — with emotions and reactions ranging from encouragement, concern, dread, outrage and just about every other feeling in between — we’re missing something that should be more fundamental to the everyday life of our country.
California businessman William E. Simon Jr. aims to remedy that with a group he’s founded, Parish Catalyst, and a book he’s written, Great Catholic Parishes: How Four Essential Practices Make Them Thrive. Having surveyed 244 parishes, he’s in the business now of sharing what works.
This was one of the most important things I’ve ever done,” Simon tells me. “It was (megachurch pastor) Rick Warren who pointed this out to me, and he’s right: The local church is the greatest engine for good in history. It’s got the biggest distribution system. It’s got the longest track record. It’s got the most committed people. It’s better than any government and bureaucracy, any agency. And it’s been around for 2,000 years, and there’s no sign that it’s not going to be around for another 2,000 years. You can’t say that about any other entity.”
Focusing on the Catholic piece of the engine, Simon points out that there are roughly 80 million Catholics in the United States, about 80 percent of them affiliated with a parish. “About 64 million Catholics are affiliated somehow or another with a parish. So, if only 10 percent of them are paying attention, that’s 6.4 million. If you could double that number, that’d be another 6.4 million. That’s a h*** of an opportunity.” (Read more from “The Greatest Engine for Good: The Local Church” HERE)