The National Catholic Review
What Catholics can learn from Protestant megachurches
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A few years ago my uncle asked, half in jest, “Do you know which is the largest Catholic church in town?” When I pleaded ignorance, he answered with a smile, “Southeast Community Church!” He pointed to a Protestant megachurch just off the expressway and explained, no longer in jest, that many Catholic families who used to attend his parish on the east side of Louisville, Ky., were now attending Southeast Community Church. National studies indicate that 40 percent of Protestant megachurch members are former Catholics.

Why are Protestant megachurches successful in attracting Catholics? A frequent explanation is that megachurches provide “entertainment”—lively music, glitzy videos, coffee shops, food courts and more. While that may be true, such reasoning demeans the spirituality of former Catholics (and others who attend these churches) by implying they are superficial in their faith. The answer must lie deeper. Perhaps these megachurches truly minister to those who attend them, including former Catholics. Maybe they spiritually empower people. Perhaps entertainment and spiritual depth are not antithetical, but can go hand in hand.

I started to explore such ideas 10 years ago when I became pastor of Our Lady of Soledad Parish in Coachella, Calif. The 5,000-family parish is 98 percent Hispanic and relatively poor. Before my arrival, the parish already had very active laypeople and 100 or more small faith communities meeting in homes each week. An active retreat center next door contributed greatly to the spiritual dynamism of the parish. Still, the parish served as a revolving door or “sacramental machine” for many families, who came for a baptism, marriage or first Communion but vanished after having received the sacrament. The pastoral staff encouraged parishioners to make a three-day Missionary Encounter retreat next door, but each retreat could accommodate only 50 candidates. Since so many more people wanted sacraments, I began to study the outreach of Protestant megachurches.

I read Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose-Driven Church. Warren pastors one of the largest megachurches in the United States, Saddleback Community Church in Orange County, Calif. His recipe for church development is simple and straightforward, and it works with many people, including former Catholics. Since Warren’s materials came in Spanish and his methods work among Latinos, I thought it reasonable to assume that some of his strategies might work in Coachella.

Our parish staff developed a three-pronged strategy that 1) focused on enhancing the worship experience of parishioners, 2) developed five mini-retreat workshops to help people grow spiritually and 3) allowed other ministries to flow organically from the structural “skeleton” created in the first two steps.

Step One: Worship

Sunday Mass is the doorway through which most Catholics pass regularly to experience God and the church. Consequently, the quality of Sunday worship is of utmost importance. The parish emphasizes hospitality: everyone receives a greeting at the door, and before Mass worshippers are invited to offer a handshake or a hug to those nearby. Members learn that their first ministry is to be friendly and welcoming. After the announcements the presider welcomes visitors, recognizes wedding anniversaries and birthdays and blesses newborn babies.

To encourage congregational singing, the parish uses PowerPoint to project the words of songs onto a big screen. Songs sometimes involve clapping or movement. PowerPoint is also used to integrate photos, videos and music into the preaching. Our Mexican-American congregation responds well to visual aids, so this strategy is especially effective. Upon entering the church, the parishioners receive a homily outline, which they are encouraged to take home as a message reminder or to share with someone else.

The parish encourages inclusion and participation, especially of children and youth. At some Masses, the children’s Liturgy of the Word includes skits, games, puppets and music. At Communion time, those children who have not yet received the sacrament form a separate line and both receive and give a blessing. The priest makes a sign of the cross on the forehead of the child, and the child reciprocates by tracing a sign of the cross on the priest’s forehead. If there is a deacon, he sometimes takes on this role. Teens serve as ministers of hospitality, run the computer for the music and homily, help in the children’s program, sing in the choirs and more. The staff and parishioners also take special care to accommodate seniors and persons with disabilities.

Parish leadership also promotes stewardship of time and of talent, not just of finances. Cards placed in the pews allow worshippers to request prayers or information on programs and ministries. A follow-up team calls anyone who fills out a card. The parish gives away 10 percent of the weekly collection to a charity; naming the charity among the prayers of petition reminds parishioners of the importance of tithing.

Step Two: Discipleship

Sunday Mass is primary and central, but it is not enough to sustain Catholics. Our parish also provides a step-by-step process to help parishioners deepen their faith, so they don’t just enter the front door only to drift quietly out the back door later. The discipleship program mirrors the process developed by Warren. It consists of five mini-retreats. A baseball diamond serves as a visual help to remember the strategy. Each retreat is one of the three bases, the pitcher’s mound or home plate. Parishioners run the bases and become “home-run Catholic Christians.”

Each mini-retreat includes prayer, ice breakers, talks, faith sharing and food. Each is also user-friendly. Held on a Sunday when most parishioners are off work, the first session begins at 3 p.m., late enough to allow for both Sunday Mass and family time. Retreats end at 8 p.m., early enough for participants to be rested for the next day. The parish provides child care. Each mini-retreat is self-contained; no one must return to complete it. This practice eliminates absenteeism and distinguishes the retreat experience from a class. Lay teams lead the mini-retreats, which are offered in English and Spanish and repeated frequently throughout the year.

Each mini-retreat focuses on a different aspect of spiritual growth:

Mini-Retreat 101, “Catholics Alive!” begins with the question, “What does it mean to be a follower of Christ?” Retreatants discuss the difference between a relationship-centered faith and a rules-centered faith; consider the importance of church as a family, instead of a privatized, Lone-Ranger Christianity; and note similarities and differences between Catholic and non-Catholic Christians. The group discusses the importance of serious commitment to the Catholic faith, as well as the commitments asked of parish members. Participants are asked to sign a simple membership covenant if they wish to join the parish as registered members.

Mini-Retreat 201, “Alive and Growing Spiritually!” focuses on maturation in the Catholic faith. Retreatants discuss prayer, Bible study and the importance of belonging to a small faith community. There is also a presentation of Catholic moral teachings.

Mini-Retreat 301, “Alive and Gifted!” helps retreatants discern how to serve God in ministry. The activities follow the acronym Shape, as developed by Warren, where “S” is for spiritual gifts; “H” represents the “heart” or passion and desire to serve; “A” stands for natural abilities; “P” is personality; and “E” represents life experiences. This mini-retreat helps participants discover how God has uniquely shaped them for ministry. Parishioners take up a ministry based on their gifts, not just on parish needs.

Mini-Retreat 401, “Alive in the World!” helps participants live as witnesses for Christ, as contagious Catholic Christians. The group discusses evangelization, as distinguished from proselytizing. Retreatants learn how to defend the Catholic faith. They also discuss Catholic social justice teachings and specifically how this parish is active in community organizing.

Mini-Retreat 501, “Alive to Praise God!” focuses on Catholic worship and the sacraments. It begins with a Taizé-style prayer, followed by a guided tour of the church during which sacred spaces, vessels and vestments are explained. Next, retreatants rotate through four workshops on the sacraments, the liturgical year and church traditions. The retreat concludes with a shortened Seder-like meal that leads into an explanatory Mass.

Step 3: Other Parish Activities

Like a human skeleton, which allows the body to stand and move, the mini-retreats work as a “skeleton” for the parish, giving structure to sponsored activities. But these are not the full story. Many other activities are supported by this basic skeleton as the lay parishioners become more involved. One parishioner created a parish soccer league for children; another established a program for the homeless. A professional psychologist started a parish counseling center, and a lawyer set up a legal assistance ministry. All parish ministries relate to one of the five core areas of the parish mission, each of which is highlighted in one of the mini-retreats: community as parish/family; spiritual discipleship/growth; ministry/stewardship; mission/outreach/social justice/evangelization; and worship.

. . .

This process works. Some 50 percent to 60 percent of the mini-retreat participants become active members of the parish. Parishioners are enthusiastic about the retreats. One night, as I waited in the drive-through lane of a local fast-food restaurant, a man in the car ahead of me got out and ran toward my car. I thought I was about to be robbed, but instead he asked, “Father, when is the next mini-retreat?”

The biggest obstacle the parish has faced is overcoming the “requirement” mentality of Catholics regarding the sacraments. The parish does require adults wishing to celebrate a sacrament for their children to attend at least the first mini-retreat. But as it begins, the leaders explain that although the parents were required to attend, the hope is that they will continue on their own to run around the spiritual baseball diamond as adult Christians who want to grow spiritually.

The process works, but it takes time to develop and requires support and perseverance on the part of the parish pastoral team. Real life is always messier than any article might imply. Every parish is different. What works in Coachella might not be as effective elsewhere. I recommend that a parish start small and add to the process gradually, one retreat at a time, although that isn’t the way we began. We started the first four mini-retreats simultaneously and added the fifth a year later. We also began only with volunteers. Now the parish staff has grown to 16. Each of our core ministries—to children, youth and adults—requires two full-time staff people.

My best advice is to jump into the water and see what works. If one strategy fails, it is possible to revise it or try something else. Ultimately, success depends on God. I am convinced, however, that God wants Catholic parishes to be alive and vibrant, full of committed, growing Christians. Pastoral leaders can learn much about this from our Protestant brothers and sisters in the megachurches across America.

Bruce Cecil, C.S.C., is pastor of Our Lady of Soledad Parish in Coachella, Calif.

Comments

John Murray | 12/29/2009 - 5:50pm

What ever happened to Cursillio? It started in Spain and spread wordwide in the 60's and 70's. The outline of what is covered is comprehensive and spiritually wonderful.


Our parish runs a shortened Cursillio called Emmaus twice a year for our teens and once for adults. 36 candidates are supported by a team of 60-80 teens and adults.It has been running for 27 years. 


 I know of other parishes in NY that run weekends called TEC(Teens Encounter Christ). These are also run in prisons.

DAVID BORDAGES | 12/28/2009 - 12:12pm

Thank you for the work you are doing for the Catholic Church.  I do not see you trying to change your church into a Protestant Church at all.  I see you trying to enhance your worship by remaining CATHOLIC at the core.  The Catholic church is a Mega Church.  I am concerned with the future of our Catholic church, traditions, and history. It is magnificent.  Working with Adults, I want to see them more connected and involved with their parish family and living and sharing their faith.  People have failed to hear your message by the beginning of your article which heralds our protestant and evangelical brothers and sisters efforts. 


This isn't a competition between faiths denominations. This is about bringing glory to Christ in the Catholic setting.  I get your message and like many of your ideas.  I encourage others to go back and re read your article.  You are not complaining about our church, you are making it better for your parishioners by engaging them into active participation.  You are not critcizing the Catholic Worship or the importance of the Eucharist, you are encouraging your parishioners to get more out of their Catholic worship and you are actively doing something about it.  We are universal and we are all unique in our approcach to worship.  You are not changing the liturgy which you cannot do.  You are adding to faith development.  You should be commended.

KEN LOVASIK | 12/22/2009 - 12:17pm

As a member of my parish's Pastoral Council, our aging congregation and dwindling numbers are a great concern.  As some have said in the above responses, it seems almost as if Roman Catholicism is dying and that the future lies in the mega-churches...but I stress the word seem.  I agree with the author of the article that we are losing communicants, some of them young, some not so young.

I know former Catholics who are now members of mega-churches:  they are exemplary Christians..."walking the walk," as they say, "and not just talking the talk."  I am not ready, however, to give up the communal celebration of the Eucharist, the sharing of the Body and Blood of the Lord, and the rich scriptural and liturgical life of the Roman Church.  That would be to "throw out the baby with the bath water."

Our catechesis in the wake of Vatican II has been very poor:  we've spoken of love, but as a warm feeling of belonging rather than the totally self-giving love of God that we are called to incarnate in our lives.  We have not shared with one, perhaps two generations the depth and richness of our Catholic liturgical, scriptural and spiritual tradition. 

Our pastoral practice in dealing with those who are "irregular" because of second marriages without annulment greatly contributes to our hemmorhage of communicants.  We have all but forgotten the contribution Fr. Bernard Haring after Vatican II, who tried to teach us all how to be "free and faithful in Christ."  This is not a new fad:  it's 50 years old!

If the vision of the Second Vatican Countil were truly implemented-it has not yet been-our Church might look a lot different...renewed and revitalized.  But sadly, aside from celebrating the Eucharist facing the congregation and in the vernacular language, not much else in the Constitutions and Decrees of the Council has been implemented.  We have yet to move, in a significant way, from being a juridically rigid institution to a warm, embracing faith community with a compassionate pastoral outreach, especially to those most "irregular." 

If we could achieve this as a Church...we would be the ones winning converts from the megachurches!

PAUL STOKELL | 12/16/2009 - 2:34pm

As a former Louisville resident and lifelong Catholic, I have heard the opening joke about Southeast Christian Church (not "Community" as the online version asserts) ad nauseam.  There's bitter truth in that humor.

But what comes next to those disaffected, under-catechized or supposedly "intellectual" Catholics who dump their parish for SCC (or its suburbanite "satellite" campuses) is something almost equally bitter: a community firmly rooted in Stone/Campbell "restorationist" Christianity, literally biblical with plenty of their own rules and regulations, many of which are just to the right of what's taught in the nearby Southern Baptist Seminary.  Their tithing requirement and the force they put behind it are far more demanding than the hackneyed, overdone "time/talent/treasure" language one might hear in a Catholic assembly.  And if you're a fan of "collaborative ministry" or women in church leadership, well, good luck.

Of course, there is plenty of blame for the Catholic side of things.  Fortunately for Louisville, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz has begun to undo decades of poor parish-level catechesis, collapsing vocations and a historical lack of strategic planning.  Kurtz has also brought with him some proactive, surefooted leadership for what's been described as "the most dysfunctional presbyterate in America" and the open anti-clericalism which is its by-product.

Still, bright lights, big sanctuaries and niche-marketed "small groups" go so far, and one need only look at the numbers (and the stories!) of those raised in "nondenoms" who grow to appreciate and embrace the "best kept secrets" of Catholicism - her liturgy, her structure, her stability, her identity.  All of which are worth celebrating as Fr. Cecil suggests.

Nobody follows uncertain trumpets, and we American Catholics have to learn that, like it or not.  Thank God for men like Kurtz who are now entering positions of leadership in the dioceses of this country.  They have no fear of "telling it like it is," yet being pastoral enough to explain it to those who are willing to listen.  And listen we should.

John Raymer | 12/15/2009 - 10:19am
Joe,

I do have a strongly Protestant background and I continue to think like a Protestant in many ways. This is the path through which God has lead me to the Catholic Church; it is God's gift to me to be used wisely for the common good.

As with you, I also accept the authority of the Church. Did you hear me reject it? If I rejected it I would just go back to being Protestant with the rest of my friends and family. It would certainly be much easier.

The authority of the Church gives it an awesome responsibility. If the Church leaders fail in their responsibility as leaders, then damage they cause and the sin they incur will be all the much greater than for you and me. Just look at the abuse scandal - the sin of abusers was great and very damaging to their victims, but the sin of the bishops who tolerated it was even greater and caused a deep and widespread damage to the church as a whole.

God has given each of us certain gifts. If we bury those gifts in the ground because we are afraid then those gifts will be taken from us and we will be cast into the darkness. For this reason, I must speak with my Protestant-trained voice as the Holy Spirit calls, for the edification of the Holy Catholic Church which I love.
Joe K | 12/15/2009 - 9:49am
Jack,
You sound very protestant? I accept the authority (rules and regulation) of the Bride of Christ, the Church.
John Raymer | 12/15/2009 - 9:41am
Joe,

You are right about the rules and regulations. But the Gospel is not about rules and regulations. The Scribes and Pharisees were about rules and regulations. Rome was about rules and regulations long before it was about Jesus Christ, and it remains so today because that is the Roman way.

All people and all cultures have their own special temptations and their own special virtues. The special temptation of the Romans is their lust for power and authority. You can see it carved in stone all over the city. The corresponding virtue is their ability to lead, build and organize. That is why the Pope is in Rome in the first place.

When Rome leads by example, with grace and love, the church will grow. When Rome leads by decree to asuage their need for glory and lust for power, they will shrink.

So to answer your question, if the troops aren't following its the fault of the leader not the troops. It is the job of the leader to set the tone, to build and maintain morale, and to lead the troops in the right direction with integrity. If any of these things don't happen, the army will lose its way and fall apart, especially when it comes under fire from the enemy. Only weak leaders blame their troops and only rotten commanders tolerate those leaders who do. The problem is not that people have found the apple tasty, but that the apple being offered is rotten.

So I call for Rome to live up to its calling so that we all may follow with confidence. In the words of St. Paul:

"I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ."
Joe K | 12/15/2009 - 1:40am

Jim,

I'm convinced that many have left the Church because of their difficulty with the rulse and regulations of the Church.  Is this a problem with the Church?  Or is this a problem with those who find the apple tasty?

JIM MCCREA | 12/15/2009 - 12:40am

Years ago when I was attending a non-denominational church, our pastor told us that he didn’t care why people came to the church, what they believed upon coming, or how they participated.  He also told us that it was up to him and us to keep people coming for the right reasons.

The idea that “one size fits all” is naïve when it comes to how people worship and join the parish.  Different age cohorts, ethnic groups and marital status cohorts have different needs which, to the extent possible and practicable, should be met.  Churches prosper institutionally not simply because they get responses to invitations or because they issue invitations.  They prosper because the faith of members deepens as they articulate it. 

Catholicism has way too often taken that “our way or the highway” approach to being Christian.  Clerics tend to break out in shingles in the face of ambiguity; laity live with it each day in their homes, jobs and social life.  Erasmus put it well:  “Vigorous minds will not suffer compulsion.  To exercise compulsion is typical of tyrants; to suffer it, typical of asses.”       

I’m convinced that the Church’s obsession with rules and regulations has turned many Catholics into non-believers, something that can happen to anyone who tries to read 10 pages of the Catechism in one sitting.  St. Augustine cautioned us as early as the 4th century when he said that there are many people which the church has but God does not have; and there are many people which God has which the Church does not have.

John Raymer | 12/14/2009 - 5:50pm
Why do people leave the Catholic Church today? Probably for much the same reason they left in 1054 and 1521. When the church becomes more about the Roman desire for authority than the Good News of Jesus Christ, people will go searching. When the Church becomes more about the power and privledge of its clergy than the needs of its people, people will go searching.

When everything was in Latin, only the well-educated could really participate and the Church could get away with all sorts things. But when people began to read the Gospel and hear the mass in their own language, their eyes were opened and they saw what the Church should be. And then they waited. And waited. And finally walked away.

The parishes that are succeeding are those that are accessible to the people and water their souls. If the Church wants to attract people and stop the losses, it should look to its roots. I suggest a thorough reading of St. Matthew's Gospel, in particular Chapters 6, 21 and 23.
lLetha Chamberlain | 12/14/2009 - 2:43am

I agree with the responder that stated she felt Catholics who leave the Church, do not know what they are leaving behind...  just like the "intelligent" people who feel they cannot be Christian of any tradition... because it means they look less so (intelligent).  In many faith traditions today there is little real education, or education about the faith required on an ongoing basis.  I was surprised a couple of years ago to find my Methodist father did not know Jesus is God.  People simply think, thanks to scientists, atheists, etc. that make a big ruckus, that being Christian is being "anti-intellectual".  Well, SURPRISE folks, it isn't so-and we need to be "getting the Word out!"

Rosalie Krajci | 12/13/2009 - 6:34pm

So sue me! I think this sounds like a great parish & I wish I didn't live 3,000 miles east. What is happening here is the building of community in a way (style?) appropriate and obviously meaningful to its members.

Furthermore, we Catholics do have a lot to learn from our "non-Catholic" brethren. (The fact that the terms "non-Catholic" and "Protestant" still exist shows a lack of ecumenical feeling.) For the most part, they recognize the value of fellowship. Many of them also "give testimony", demonstrating how the living God has affected them in their day to day life.

As for the worship experience relying "exclusively" on music & homilies, this need not be so - but let's not minimize them either! The behind-the-scenes activities and minstries are what carry over, adding even greater substance to the joint Sunday Eucharist.

Thank you, Father Cecil, for your [holy] spirit of adventure.

Carol Donnelly | 12/13/2009 - 1:24pm
Last October I attended a megachurch in Illinois with my son and his wife,former Catholics . It was an experience to be sure, flashy , loud , professional quality singing , professional quality homilsts , stage props , theater seats with coffee cup holder , minimal audience ( congregation ? ) participation other than joining in on a few songs. Repetitive references to verses from Revelations were a major component of the homily . I do believe we recited one prayer together .

The conclusion of the gathering was particularly interesting in that the audience was asked to stand and raise their fists in a " go team " cheer in support of the next weeks outreach agenda.

This church purchased a mall , they rent some of stores to retail business and use some of the other stores for re-sale of donated clothes and furniture with all proceeds going to the church. At least this is my understanding.

I would say this is a very profitable business selling fellowship through strict adherence to scripture as interpreted by the leaders . How deep into the spiritual lives of the members does this type of religion go only God knows for sure.

It seemed to me to like a community club working for the benefit of the club as well as the community ( there is no doubt that they do " good works " . It is a " feel good " operation or so it seemed to me.

Rather than having Catholics look to megachurches for spiritual growth I suggest the Bishops look at the Catholic Church and her practices to attempt to understand why Catholics are leaving . Does anyone of the Church contact members who have decided to leave and discuss the reasons behind the decision to leave the Church of their faith. When my son left the Catholic Church in Rockford Ill no one contacted him despite the fact that he and his wife had been active in RCIA and Eucharistic Ministry . They had been faithful members of the Church for over twenty years ! Sad , very sad indeed.
Carol
LAWRENCE HANSEN | 12/12/2009 - 2:55pm

I confess that I'm not one for high-tech liturgies-or for noisy, enthusiastic liturgies, for that matter.  My own spiritual life has lead me to appreciate, if not covet, quiet, reflective eucharistic celebrations, with or without musical accompaniment.  But I need to be reminded that Catholic (big and small "c") means just that: universal.  It certainly doesn't mean uniform.  

Perhaps what needs to be remembered in these discussions is that the core of the Christian faith is to be found in the life, teachings, suffering, death and-most of all-the resurrection of Jesus the Christ, the Holy One who remains alive and celebrating in our midst even as we recall his death through which we become, as we celebrate Eucharist, what St. Augustine told us we are, the Body and Blood of Christ himself.  As my late and sainted mother-in-law (who lived 101 Grace-filled years) often told us, whatever leads people to live closer to God and to serve others as Jesus would, is good and right.  St. Paul has taught us, "(W)hatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things" (Phil. 4:8).  In the present context, I think he might add, "Act on them."

Joe K | 12/12/2009 - 12:44am

The problem is the when people stress the "worship experience" they almost exclusively mean the quality of the homily and the quality of the music.  This is a matter of taste.  Some people like pizza with mushrooms and some like it with spinach.  I prefer the traditional Chicago Sausage, Mushroom, Green Pepper and Onion.

To each his own.

But we are not talking about pizza.  We are talking about the Mass.

CHARLES NORMAN OSFS REV | 12/11/2009 - 9:38pm

My enthusiastic response comes with difficulty due to a distracting temptation to address the negative distortions of some previous responders.  The pastoral author has reacted brilliantly and creatively and in authentic Catholic tradition to a deepening crisis in the Church in our country, though worse with variant causes in Europe. Even in his address to the reader of AMERICA, the pastor advises flexibility and adaptation to the "skeleton" and the authority of the Spirit in all people because of who they are and where they are. Fr, Cecil merits our gratitude, love, and prayers.   

James Sheehan | 12/11/2009 - 1:36pm
You are to be commended by your efforts to build up and strengthen the Body of Christ. I am jealous.
I just hope this new translation of the mass does not stiffle the spirit of your worship.
It is a great article showing there are still sign of life out there.
Joe K | 12/11/2009 - 1:34pm
A comment about "Worship experience". You don't mention that a deeper understanding of the Liturgy might enhance the "worship experience". The problem with your suggestions is that this is all subjective. I would suspect that your powerpoint, dance, music and other enhancements will turn off many people (we can quibble about the numbers). I think that a deeper understanding will turn on almost all Catholics. A deeper understanding will prevent many from church shopping.

Also the numbners are deceptive. Most Catholic parishes have several masses for the Sunday Liturgy. There also might be three parishes within a small area. The Mega church usually has one Sunday service and attracts people from all over.

I do agree that it is a great concern that a Catholic would give up the Eucharist for a Mega church. I suspect that these Catholics don't understand what they are giving up!

I will America Magazine would devote more space to helping Catholics understand.
JEFFREY RICE MR | 12/11/2009 - 11:55am

So, then what distinguishes Our Lady of Soledad Parish from a protestant mega-church?  You've turned your parish into another big-box church where people can go to feel good about themselves.  A Walmart for spiritual nourishment.  Congratulations.  What happens when it goes bad?  What happens when your flock, entirely reliant on your bells and whistles, your entertainment for their well-being run into serious issues of faith.  The world's problems as well as those of your parishioners are not solved with power point presentations or hugs.  In the long run I fear you are doing them great injustice and doing severe harm to the Catholic Church.  No thank you.  I'm am content with my small but alive parish, where our pastor knows pretty much everyone by name, where we also tithe 10% of our income but don't have to gloat about it in prayers, and where we are resolutely trying to counter our sound-byte culture, not join in its insanity. 

JAMES OLEARY MR | 12/11/2009 - 11:06am

I don't parish shop where I live. There is nothing to shop for. It is a mystery to me how the bishop and the Catholic clergy who care about the Church can sit back and watch it die. They have an annual diocesan workshop for religious educators but half the day is taken up with a pontifical Mass presided over by the bishop of course. You don't see priests out in public unless you go to an expensive restaurant. And we have megachurches here too. I have contempt for them but at least the leaders work at attracting people to their services.