Vibrant Parishes transform faithful into stewards of the Gospel
BEDFORD — “‘Vibrant’ means full of energy and enthusiasm,” LPI presenter Tracy Earl Welliver said. “Yet, one of the primary reasons people leave the Church is apathy.”
So began the Vibrant Parish Seminar held at St. Michael Church in Bedford on August 9. Nearly 100 participants from 20 parishes around the Diocese of Fort Worth attended the program, which came to fruition through the efforts of both Annette Lee, Stewardship Coordinator for St. Michael and Diana Liska, Director of Stewardship for the Diocese of Fort Worth.
But what might stewardship have to do with increasing community engagement within parishes? As it turns out, everything.
The Vibrant Parish model of stewardship emphasizes the fact that the faithful are more than custodians of a parish, but rather stewards of the Gospel. This distinction, according to Welliver, is the basis for an expanded view of stewardship and its role in evangelization.
“It’s about moving forward and not staying where you are,” he said in an interview. “It is mission oriented instead of just maintenance.”
To move stewardship into mission territory, Vibrant Parish relies on engaging communities based on what they’ve termed the Four Quadrants of a Vibrant Parish: discipleship, identity, communication, and formation. Using these markers, the LPI Vibrant Parish model offers a holistic approach towards parish community engagement at every level from clergy and staff to volunteers.
“I liked how many staff members and priests we had here,” Liska said. “It’s vital that staff see themselves as engaged in the mission of the Church through their everyday duties.”
Formerly known as Liturgical Publications until rebranding in February of this year, LPi is a family-owned company based in New Berlin, Wis. Founded in 1972 as primarily a bulletin printing company, LPi now provides communications services and community engagement solutions across a broad spectrum of platforms, digitally and in print. With six offices spanning the country, including Dallas, LPi seeks to provide churches with the tools needed to engage and evangelize. But make no mistake, the services provided by this company have solid, theological foundations that translate into practical solutions for church communities.
The practicality of stewardship at this level was not lost on Chris Stark, General Agent for the Knights of Columbus, who heard about the Vibrant Parish Seminar on Facebook and contacted Liska about attending and setting up a booth for the Knights.
“When I see something about vibrant parishes, I feel that’s something the Church really needs,” Stark said. “As soon as Mass is out, people scatter and that’s not how it was meant to be. We need to build community, a vibrant community.”
The fact that Stark heard about the seminar through social media is something Welliver would see as a step in the right direction. One of the clear goals of the program is to teach parishes to use media in all forms mindfully, from making sure that parish websites have clearly visible Mass times, to using the blank space on the back of a worship aid to explain a teaching of the Church.
“Yes, stewardship is everything,” the late Canadian social worker Catherine Doherty once said. “And I am responsible for my part of everything.”
Diana Liska put it another way. “If we could get all of our parishes on board with this vision of stewardship, we could create a culture of prayer, service and generosity.”