Last spring I came across Matthew Kelly’s book The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic. I was so impressed that I bought lots of copies and gave them out to staff and parish leaders as a “summer reading assignment,” hoping the book could shape useful conversation for helping our parish and parishioners to grow. The responses I got were very positive. (Deacon Peter bought more copies himself to give to members of his Scripture study group, and I know you’ve heard the book mentioned from the altar over the summer too.)
Last week the Pastoral Council met for the first time since I had given them the book, and the response from them was positive as well. So you’re going to be hearing more about his work over the next few weeks and months. To start, here’s some background:
Matthew Kelly is from Australia. He worked (and continues to work) in business and is a devout Catholic. And he’s horrified that the most important organization in the world, the Catholic Church, with the most important mission in the world, bringing people to holiness and thus fulfilling God’s plan for the world, is failing so badly at its task. And he’s convinced that a core reason for that failure is that most Catholics aren’t really engaged by their faith. He founded an organization to change that. His organization researched Catholic participation and engagement and found that –
- 80% of volunteer hours donated to parishes come from 6.4% of registered parishioners;
- 80% of financial contributions come from 6.8% of parishioners;
- There is an 84% overlap between these two groups.
As he says, “Roughly 7 percent of Catholic parishioners are doing almost everything in their faith community and paying almost entirely for the maintenance and mission of the parish.” [p.12]
Kelly has some ideas on how to change that, and the amazing things we could do for God’s world if we did.
For Kelly this is the major issue of our church in our time: We’re doing amazing amounts of good but have the potential to do even more if more Catholics became engaged in their faith and mission. Kelly figures that fewer than one Catholic in ten is truly engaged as a disciple. He’d like us to imagine how much good we could do if we could get that even to two in ten. And he thinks that, through a study of how engaged Catholics live their faith, he has a path to help other Catholics discover the beauty of the faith and to become more engaged. Here are the things Kelly says are markers of engaged Catholics:
- They pray. Daily, and in some structured way. They don’t all pray the same way, but they have a personal habit of daily prayer that they’ve discovered, often through trial and error, works for them.
- They study. Whether it’s by reading Catholic books and/or magazines and/or websites, through TV or DVDs, engaged Catholics have a practice of learning more about their faith. They have a plan and a routine for learning more and for making what they learn a part of their lives.
- They are grateful. Engaged Catholics live with a continuing sense that their lives have been blessed, and as a response they are generous, thinking often of how they can do the most good with what God has given to them.
- They value their faith, enjoy it, and want to share it with others. (The formal, “churchy” word for this is evangelization, but engaged Catholics almost never use the word, or think about themselves as doing it.)
The Pastoral Council, ministry leaders, and I are discussing how we can put some of Kelly’s ideas into action, helping parishioners to deepen our spiritual lives and even to invite non-practicing Catholics back to parish life. Until next week, peace.
 You may remember that Gallup measures engagement, and our parish’s score on our latest survey (2013) was 24% engaged. The numbers differ because Kelly and Gallup measure engagement differently, although they mean similar things by the word. I suspect our parish is typical, and by Kelly’s measure would be around the 7% mark. Kelly is a very practical follow-up to the work we’ve already done with Gallup.