Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Manifesto -- Part Two

Objectives, Goals, Processes

One of the major themes in Chapter One of Effective Church Operational Systems is stated thus, “The objective is not church growth or parishioner involvement in activities of the parish alone. The objective is personal transformation of individuals in Christian growth and maturity which in turn leads to congregational health and growth. If people are not growing as disciples of Christ, the number of ‘bucks and bodies’ matters very little. The activities of the parish, including worship service attendance and financial giving, are only means to that more important end.” (My emphases throughout.)

Remember the word 'transformation'. It is used over and over and over throughout the thesis. Again, we need to try and understand the ideas undergirding this statement, which on the surface, are altruistic. It is important that Catholics experience growth and maturity in their faith. At issue is how that happens, and what is meant by ‘personal transformation’.

For Protestants, spiritual growth and maturity primarily come from Scripture study and application, prayer, fellowship at worship services, and doing good works. The sacraments are either absent or occur infrequently.  As understood by Catholics, the presence of Christ Jesus in Body and Blood is absent in Protestant worship services.

The mass cannot ever be explained or defined as a “worship service” akin to other Christian sects. It is possible that Deacon Dean had in mind the audience of his professors when writing the thesis, but the differences between a Protestant worship service and a Catholic mass cannot be overemphasized —and the two must not be conflated.

Let me quote from a booklet titled “101 Questions About The Mass” published by Thy Kingdom Come, Inc. This small treatise is very helpful in giving a short overview of the mass. Questions 13 and 14:

13) Is the Mass a Sacrament?
The Sacrament of the Eucharist is at the center of the Mass. In the Mass, Christ emanates, communicates, and radiates supernatural grace. This happens objectively in every Mass – for the whole world including all the persons in the world and all the souls in Purgatory. For those who are present and participating at Mass, the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the Mass bestows upon them grace in accordance with their proper disposition and active participation.

14) Is it true that the more I participate in Mass, the more grace I will receive for myself and for others?
Yes, the more we participate in Mass with faith and devotion, the more grace we receive. Every Mass is a source of countless graces that are so needed today. For this reason, daily Mass is strongly encouraged. St. Leonard said that, except for daily Mass on the thousands of altars around the world, the human race would long ago have been destroyed because of its sins. This can be said even more so in our day, with its crisis of faith and escalation of sin. A Mass well participated in can change the world and greatly help other persons and the souls in Purgatory. 

What could possibly be more transformative than the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass? Yet, the mass is referred to as a worship service and subordinated to an as-yet-undefined ‘personal transformation of Christian growth and maturity’. The sacraments are not mentioned.

Deacon Dean writes, “This doctoral thesis-project will be on the [sic] attempt to develop an effective ministry team and operational system to lead All Saints Parish in Corning, NY into a successful future. If this systems approach works here, it should be transferable to other parishes and even churches outside of Catholicism.”

The proposed operational system for our parish is intertwined with many larger, even historical issues. Speaking of the sexual abuse scandals, Deacon Dean writes, “The damage is immense. . . Casual observance would indicate that the prophetic voice of the Catholic Church to the world has been, at best, significantly lost. Most declarations coming from ecclesial authorities as of late have focused on internal issues pulling the church in conservative directions on issues like the liturgy and clerical roles.”

Even the schisms of the 16th century are mentioned. He writes, “Much of the Counter Reformation became an entrenchment against all things Protestant closing the ecclesial mind to what could have been an opportunity to learn.

Next comes a short historical sketch of the history of Catholicism in the Corning-Painted Post area (with quite a few comments on the leadership styles and abilities of the various pastors), as well as a personal note explaining the context of the project.

The chapter ends with this: “The goal of the endeavor and thesis-project is to implement an operational process for the parish leadership that will clarify what it is we want to accomplish as a parish, clarify where we are now in relationship to where we believe God wants us to be as a parish, develop a strategy on how to get to where we want to be, establish a system for ongoing response for continued improvement, and build a leadership team where there is now only individual ministers.”

So, based on what has been written, we can condense this chapter’s philosophical outlook to a list that might look like this:

Personal Transformation
Implement a leadership operational process
Clarify what we want to accomplish
Congregational Health
Build a leadership team
Clarify current status
Congregational Growth
Establish a system for continued improvement
Develop a strategy to reach goals

What I am getting from this first chapter is that, in order for the objectives of personal transformation, and congregational health and growth to occur, a leadership operational process needed to be implemented. It must be stated that there is nothing remotely Catholic about this process. It is a secular process, admittedly devised for use in business. Most of the religious resources referred to in the thesis are from Protestant pastors and authors such as Rick Warren, Richard J. Foster, Stephen Macchia, and Peter Steinke.

Our parish has been under this operational process for a few years now. Has it been a success? How does it compare with the parish's health before it was implemented? And just who and what is being transformed?

(Next:  Part Three -- There are lies, damned lies, and statistics)


  1. Must be fun being a man's guinea pig. That's what the people of All Saints are to Deacon Dan.

  2. That is what I thought. Guinea pigs.

  3. To quote Deacon Dean: "If this systems approach works here, it should be transferable to other parishes and even churches outside of Catholicism."

    Clearly, his "systems approach" is not working in this parish. Is he the only one who is blind to this fact? God help anyone who would seek to implement it.

  4. I thought the Deacon was the pastoral administrator of All Saint Parish family? His Manifesto seems to ensure the growth of a church; just not the Catholic Church in Corning. Maybe we could ask him to start leading worship services elsewhere to boost attendance at the Catholic Church? ....300 days until mandatory retirement in Rochester?

  5. The ideas in the thesis...can we discuss the ideas? What do you all think of the systems approach for parish organization? How is this different from what has traditionally worked for parishes? Why would someone want to completely change the system that has been in place? I know these discussions have been going on offline...

  6. I am reminded in all this of my favorite quote on reorganization and change...coming from a Roman, I think it most appropriate:

    "We trained hard...but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form into teams, we would be reorganized. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing, and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization." (Petronius Arbiter, 210 BC)

    The last part describes perfectly the situation in our diocese and parish. Its almost like its on purpose. Saul Alinsky (a former Chicago Diocese Community Organizer) would be proud:

    Rules for Radicals - Rule 3: "Whenever possible, go outside the experience of an opponent. Here you want to cause confusion, fear, and retreat."

  7. That is a good quote.

  8. Have only deceased Pastors been mentioned in his thesis? There are a few living who could cause waves if they are mentioned....Also, has the Bishop, Chancellor and Priest Personal Board read it..maybe they should be sent a copy...wouldn't hurt..

  9. Former pastors who are still living are mentioned also. I have no idea if anyone in Rochester has read the thesis.

  10. The personal descriptions are quite blunt. It seems to me that names could have been left out.

  11. will this part of his paper be on the blog...hate the idea of paying because he probably gets a share of the proceeds

  12. Names are used if they are relevant. I used the mention of Fr. Brennan because he was characterized as 'old-fashioned' and resistant to change. Transformation, or change, is a major focus of the thesis.