Great Catholic Parishes

A Living Mosaic

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Format: Paperback

Publication date: September 23, 2016

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What is really happening in the Catholic Church in North America? Are parishes thriving or dying? Is dissatisfaction among Catholics growing or are they becoming more engaged in the evangelizing mission of the Church?

Businessman, professor, and philanthropist, William E. Simon Jr. has been highly influenced by the dynamic and inspiring Catholic parishes he has attended for more than 25 years. In 2012, he founded Parish Catalyst, an organization devoted to researching and supporting the health and development of Catholic parishes. Great Catholic Parishes looks at Simon’s insights and the success stories of 244 vibrant parishes to show what makes them great.

In 2012 and 2013, Simon and his team studied 244 Catholic parishes to determine what made them exceptional. The study found that all of the parishes shared four foundational practices that led to a profound sense of belonging within their parish communities and a deepening commitment to discipleship:

  • Share leadership by using clergy and lay staff with the best talents and skills to direct the community
  • Foster spiritual maturity and plan for discipleship by offering a variety of formation programs and ministry opportunities to reach parishioners at differing points in their lives
  • Excel on Sundays by dedicating significant time, energy, and money to liturgical celebrations that parishioners and visitors find welcoming
  • Intentionally evangelize by challenging insiders to look outward and providing service programs, social events, global mission opportunities, and pastoral care at key sacramental moments that focus on inviting outsiders to deeper relationship with Christ and the Church.

In Great Catholic Parishes, Simon shares personal stories such as finding a welcoming parish home and what he learned about evangelizing from a mission trip to Kenya. Pastors from exceptional parishes offer helpful ideas, strategic advice, and practical strategies, as well as anecdotes about lay ministry development initiatives and reworking religious education so that it is family focused and web-based.

You will also learn creative solutions to familiar challenges such as spiritual stagnation among parishioners, reconciling diverse needs in the parish, allowing the pastor to focus on pastoring and preaching, and reaching youth and young adults who leave the Church in disproportionate numbers.

Each chapter closes with either crucial takeaways or a summary of practical challenges that will help pastors and leaders focus on growth and excellence.


Product Details

Pages: 224

Trim size: 6 x 9 inches

ISBN: 9781594714177

Imprint: Ave Maria Press

  • “Insightful.”

    “An insightful look at what is going right in those parishes that are successfully nourishing their spiritual families.”

    From the foreword by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan Archbishop of New York

  • “An inspiring read and a useful resource.”

    “Bill Simon's practical wisdom and generous leadership are welcome gifts to the Church today. His latest book is an inspiring read and a useful resource for pastors and parish staffs looking to build healthy, growing parishes.”

    Rev. Michael White and Tom Corcoran
    Authors of Rebuilt

  • “This is the book we parishioners (and our pastors) have been waiting for.”

    “If you’re looking for the components of vibrant parish life—and what you can do to make it happen in your parish – go no further. Bill Simon and his Parish Catalyst team have researched deeply and prescribed wisely. This is the book we parishioners (and our pastors) have been waiting for so that we can make our parishes welcoming, vibrant, meaningful, and faith-filled.”

    Paul Wilkes
    Author of Excellent Catholic Parishes

  • “A valuable contribution.”

    “The key to the New Evangelization is the renewal of the parish. Bill Simon is passionate about this, and my own parish has benefited directly from his passion. This book is a valuable contribution to the exciting and necessary conversation about parish vitality and revitalization that is sweeping over our Church.”

    Rev. James Mallon
    Author of Divine Renovation

  • “An invaluable study.”

    “Bill Simon’s zeal and hope for the future of parish life are contagious! This invaluable study should be shared with every ministry student preparing for ecclesial leadership today.”

    Jan Poorman
    Director of Formation and Field Education in the Master of Divinity Program
    University of Notre Dame

  • “Fascinating details on many of the best parishes in North America.”

    “This book may be the best catalyst ever for assisting Catholic parish life to be even better. It gives fascinating details on many of the best parishes in North America. It gives practical tips on how to improve hymns, homilies, architecure, liturgy, the works. It gives a tremendous boost to great pastors (especially the overworked and undersung). It covers virtually every aspect of parish life, and is a powerful invitation to great lay people to pitch in. For most of us, the parish is the church. . . . Hurrah for the editors and author!”

    Michael Novak
    Catholic philosopher, theologian, and author

  • “I would give every pastor a copy.”

    “An inspiring and informative study on what makes great parishes. We do have many, many wonderful parishes in our country and Bill Simon explores the truth of what helps to make them great. This is a good read for any priest or parish staff member who wants to build a vibrant parish community. I would give every pastor a copy.”

    Msgr. Stephen J. Rossetti
    Author of The Joy of Priesthood

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Additional Resources

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Three discussion guides are available for download on

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America Magazine Book Review
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New York Post Book Review
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Bill Simon Jr. on The Jennifer Fulwiler Show
Michael Novak review in RealClear Politics
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First Things
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Commonweal review
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