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The immediate inspiration for this resource is found in Pope Francis’s

repeated calls to move our church, parish, and ministry strategies from a

mindset of




. In the words of the Holy Father:

I hope that all communities will devote the necessary effort to

advancing along the path of a pastoral and missionary conversion

which cannot leave things as they presently are. “Mere adminis-

tration” can no longer be enough. Throughout the world, let us be

“permanently in a state of mission.”


This missionary vision cannot be accomplished without shared effort by

the whole church community. As Pope Francis told us during his apostolic

journey to the United States in 2015, “[O]ur challenge today is . . . to

foster a sense of collaboration and shared responsibility in planning for the

future of our parishes and institutions.”


Shared discernment and planning,

rooted in prayer, marks the beginning of a fruitful effort at evangeliza-

tion. It also requires time, energy, knowledge, skills, careful planning, and

implementation—all with the Lord’s grace, of course!

The focus must be outward directed, not on the parish as it is, but

on how the parish or faith community can better and more fruitfully lead,

minister, and engage people in the call to witness and discipleship. In his

Apostolic Exhortation

Evangelii Gaudium

, Pope Francis speaks of the need

to move beyond an internal or self-directed focus:

Even if many are now involved in lay ministries, this involvement is

not reflected in a greater penetration of Christian values in the social,

political and economic sectors. It often remains tied to tasks within

the Church, without a real commitment to applying the Gospel to

the transformation of society. The formation of the laity and the

evangelization of professional and intellectual life represent a signifi-

cant pastoral challenge.


One way to ensure that our parishes are true communities of evange-

lization, focused on preparing Christians for discipleship, is for the whole

parish to undertake a process of discernment to evaluate current pastoral

ministry and outreach programs. What Pope Francis says about dioceses

can also be applied to parishes; namely, that “to make this missionary

impulse ever more focused, generous and fruitful, I encourage each particu-