By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
Membership at St. James Church in the Highlands has grown by about 10 percent in the last year, according to parishioners who attended the Parish Growth Conference Oct. 10 at Our Mother of Sorrows Church.
About 85 others attended the conference at Our Mother of Sorrows to listen to speakers and discuss parish growth. It was sponsored by the Pax Christi Collaborative — the parish cluster of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Our Mother of Sorrows and St. Therese churches.
Father David Harris, administrator of the three parishes and the conference organizer, said the conference’s aim was to “spark enthusiasm, ignite commitment and maximize passion for parish growth.”
That’s just what St. James has been aiming to do through its parish GROW (God Renews Our World) committee.
Scott and Mary Pat Nimon, members of St. James, spoke about the GROW committee during the conference. The committee, formed last fall, aims to “grow the faith of members of the parish and grow the numbers of the parish,” said Mary Pat Nimon.
“We had one of the most beautiful churches in Louisville, but it was not very active and the number of parishioners continued to decline,” she said.
In just one year, the GROW group has seen some encouraging progress, she said. Sunday
Mass attendance grew from 240 to 360. There have been a record number of baptisms and weddings, thanks in part, she said, to the relaxing of some scheduling requirements for the sacraments by pastor Father Gary Padgett.
Their parish has gained 57 new members, representing 33 households. Mary Pat Nimon noted that it’s not unusual to have one new member per week registering with the parish. These positive signs are linked, she said, to the efforts of the GROW group.
The group has primarily focused on three areas: hospitality, the worship experience and outreach.
A new Sunday evening Mass at 7 p.m. and a cry room for families have been added. Also, the GROW group has hosted hospitality events, such as coffee and doughnuts after Mass, in an effort to welcome parishioners and foster dialogue.
Members of the committee also walked door-to-door in the surrounding area welcoming neighbors to the parish.
“If we don’t ask, how will people know to come?” she said. “We’ve reversed the momentum of decline of the last 10 years.”
Father Harris told those gathered in the Our Mother of Sorrows cafeteria that gaining disciples must be intentional.
“When the parish is fulfilling its mission of making disciples, it is growing,” he said in an interview following the conference.
Father Harris described the Parish Growth Conference as “a huge success” and noted that people left with “a sense of renewal and readiness to be parish growth ‘change agents.’ ”
“They realized more fully that the parish is a center of excellence for making disciples and they’re called to participate in that.
“A breath of fresh air is moving through the church with the new evangelization and we are being invited to get in on it at the ground level,” Father Harris said.