One of the most striking things in America’s article (Mar. 6) about St. Michael’s, in Axtel, Kan., is how atypical the parish is in today’s Catholic church. Having a stable population in a small town, with a pastor who has been there for some time and knows everybody by name, is not representative of most parishes. But recent books about parish life and leadership give us a more comprehensive picture.
Great Catholic Parishes by William E. Simon Jr., based on interviews with 244 pastors of parishes designated as healthy and vibrant, identified four essential qualities that these communities have in common: sharing leadership; fostering spiritual maturity and planning for discipleship; “excelling” on Sundays; and evangelizing in intentional, structured ways.