An Encouraging Word – Parish revitalization

Father J. Ronald Knott
Father J. Ronald Knott

In you is my hope. Psalm 39:8

Parish revitalization has been my passion since I was assigned to the home missions of our diocese and had the chance to get my doctor of ministry degree from McCormick Presbyterian Seminary in Chicago in the area of parish revitalization.

When I was directing the Institute for Priests and Presbyterates at St. Meinrad Seminary, I became so convinced of the importance of parish revitalization today that I established an endowment for teaching it. From stipends leading priest convocations around the world, that endowment was around $125,000 when I left.

I cringe when I read recently that vocations and church attendance has plummeted to another all-time low in Germany. I sigh when I read that the former bishop of Dallas says he needed to open more parishes in his burgeoning diocese but couldn’t because he didn’t have enough priests to staff them

I know there is no simple answer, but I do believe that we are much more creative in how to close parishes than we are in how to prevent it from happening. I have said it 100 times — the biggest shortage in the Catholic Church is not priests or money, but imagination.

Whether it is in the island parishes in the Caribbean where I have been ministering or the parishes of Canada and the United States, we marginalize creative thinkers and bring conformist thinkers into a shrinking inner circle because they won’t challenge the status quo. Too many ideas take up too much time to sort through and trigger even more work for that shrinking inner circle.

At 72, I don’t have much structural clout, but I can speak my mind (until I become the first retired priest ever fired). I also believe in prayer. I know that Jesus promised “to be with us always” so I am turning the rest over to Him. I am consoled, however, by the fact that I left all my ministry assignments in better shape than I found them. I did what I could.

A Parish Prayer

Lord, God, we ask you to bless our parish. Help us to know you in a deeper way. Help us to sincerely live in imitation of Jesus, your Son, with the power of your Spirit in our hearts.

Bless all the families in our parish, especially families that experience difficulties; bless all the children and young people in our parish; bless the old, the lonely and the sick, at home and in the hospital.

Bless those who grieve, those who despair of life, and all who suffer pain and hurt.

Bring the grace of healing, peace and hope to all hearts and through the intercession of______, to whom our parish is dedicated, may your love be upon us as we place all our trust in you.

We ask your blessing on our parish community that we may become a place of hospitality, love, welcome and support for all.
We make this prayer to you in the name of Jesus the Lord. Amen!

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