Meeting focuses on parish vitality


By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

In the Davenport Diocese, parish viability depends on fostering six areas of ministry: Church Life, Faith Formation, Family Life, Finance and Administration, Liturgy, and Social Action. These ministries took center stage during annual Parish Corporate Board meetings held Sept. 14 and 16 around the diocese. Iowa law requires corporate boards of the diocese’s 79 parishes to meet annually. Parish corporate boards are composed of the bishop (president), vicar general (vice president), pastor and two lay directors.

Sr. Goedken

Sister Laura Goedken, OP, diocesan development director, explained that the diocese has used the six areas of ministry as a benchmark for vital, strong and viable parishes for more than 20 years. Information about each ministry’s responsibilities, structure and suggested activities has recently been updated.

“As lay directors you might not look at these very often, but I am asking you tonight to broaden your scope and to think about ministries that your parish has,” Sr. Goedken said at the Sept. 16 meeting. “A parish is where the faith and spirituality is introduced and fostered from birth to death. Every parishioner is a minister to one another.”


Pastors and lay leaders, connected across the diocese electronically, viewed a diocesan-produced video on YouTube that focused on the six areas of ministry. (Go to to see the “six ministries” video.) Afterwards, the participants discussed questions about the video and ministry areas. The meetings also covered the role and fiduciary responsibility of a lay leader, and insurance and safety issues. Bishop Martin Amos concluded the meetings with a blessing.

Father Nick Adam, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Fairfield, one of the off-site locations for the meeting, said he enjoyed the program very much, especially the video. “The diocese obviously put a lot of time into that. It made my trustees more aware of their responsibilities.”

Despite technical difficulties during the Sept. 14 meeting, he thinks the electronic meeting is an effective approach. He’d just avoid scheduling meetings on Sunday afternoons in the fall because that’s a busy time for farmers.

Judy Diehl, a lay trustee for the Fairfield parish, said she and lay trustee Dennis Adam both liked the way parishioners in the video talked about the different things they’d done in the six areas of ministry. “It was an eye-opening experience,” Diehl said. “We got a lot of ideas; hopefully we can be more active as lay trustees.”
Lois Canaday, attending her first Parish Corporate Board meeting as a lay director for St. Joseph Parish in DeWitt, found the information very helpful.

Discussion about the six areas of ministry in small groups “gave us a reflection time to think about what we are doing and what we could do for the improvement of the parish community,” she said. Canady also appreciated gaining general knowledge about corporate boards and the role of parish lay directors.

“I think Sr. Laura did an excellent job of explaining the six areas of ministry,” said Mary Wieser, diocesan director of faith formation and Safe Environment coordinator. She assisted at the DeWitt meeting site. “There was some good discussion and interaction, particularly at the Sept. 16 meeting, she noted. “They realized that the Davenport and Clinton deaneries have worked together for catechist formation and bringing in speakers for catechists. No one parish could afford to bring a speaker in for something like that,” Wieser noted.

Sr. Goedken encouraged parish leaders to examine their parishes’ strengths and weaknesses, to be diligent in their fiduciary responsibilities and to look for opportunities to collaborate with a neighboring parish or parishes. She quoted Pope Francis in his apostolic exhortation “Joy of the Gospel” about what it means to be Church. “I encourage each particular Church to undertake a resolute process of discernment, purification and reform, listening to everyone and not simply to those who would tell you what you want to hear. Abandon the complacent attitude that says ‘we have always done it this way.’”

“You might ask yourself,” Sr. Goedken told the parish leaders, “what brings your parishioners back to Mass every Sunday? For older people, it might be a sense of obligation. That is not true for the younger generation.”

Hospitality, a sense of feeling welcome and invited is very important, Bishop Amos told the parish leaders. “I can go to some parishes, big or small, where everyone welcomes me. I can go to another parish, in full regalia, where people walk right past me as if I didn’t exist. I really wonder what that says about a parish?”


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