During Pope Francis’ message to his brother bishops in Washington, D. C., he repeatedly talked about dialogue and creating a culture of encounter. Not only did he discuss those concepts, he lived them out during the rest of his time in D.C. and throughout his visits to New York and Philadelphia. He reached out to people—engaging them, blessing them, and joyfully sharing time with children, youth, adults, and the elderly. He modeled pastoral behavior for bishops and priests, with actions speaking much louder than words.
My book, Listen to the Heartbeat of the Church: A Pathway to Parish Renewal, Revised Edition, answers Cuomo’s question by offering a process and direction for parishioners, pastors, and bishops to begin working toward dialogue, co-responsibility, and collaboration that the Pope spoke of repeatedly.
Heartbeat is timely, and is one way that Catholic parishes and dioceses can move toward achieving the goals that Pope Francis offered. The book lays the foundation for parish leaders to develop a process that will honor and use all of the gifts of all of the people within their congregations. It demonstrates how to create the culture of encounter mentioned repeatedly by Pope Francis.
Released September 1 by Wipf and Stock publishers, Heartbeat is based on a nine-month parish-wide assessment that I was hired to facilitate, as well information gleaned from a research grant awarded to me by the American Benedictine Academy to study visitation in Benedictine monasteries. Heartbeat also includes a fictional story about the difficulties and successes parishioners of St. Anonymous Catholic Church endure and the outcomes they experience. While St. Anonymous is a product of my imagination, the episodes in the book parallel reality, based on my experience in parish ministry. The book shows how a dedicated and open-minded young priest helps his congregation turn their sense of despair into enthusiasm. The story demonstrates that congregations can grow in faith and authentic community when parishioners, the pastor, and their bishop engage in dialogue and shared ministry. It opens the door to consideration of parish-wide assessment, prior to a bishop’s extended visit.
The book is not intended to provide a one-size-fits-all approach to parish review and renewal, or to insinuate that there is only one way for a parish to reach a better understanding of its identity and mission. It is a guide, not an unalterable blueprint.
Renewal can happen—one parish, one diocese at a time.
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Copyright 2015 Dorothy Hill Baroch
About the author: Dorothy Hill Baroch is a wife, mother, business owner, and a Benedictine oblate. She lives with her husband in a suburb of Las Vegas, Nevada. Creative writing followed closely on the heels of the technical and grant writing that were part of her work as a consultant. She has had articles published in secular and religious magazines.