Growing the flock

What does it take to make a parish come alive?

A local paper in Santa Clara, California has been taking a look at the various religions that make up its diverse community, and it’s concluding its series with a profile of a large and thriving Catholic parish that owes much of its vibrancy to the growing Latino population.  It’s a revealing glimpse at what the American Catholic Church is becoming.

From the Santa Clara Press-Democrat:

Hundreds of Catholic parishioners sit in upholstered metal chairs set up for the service in sections that fan out from the chancel in a wide-open space. They sit, stand, kneel and pray as a large group within sight of each other, in contrast to the rows of pews in a more traditional chapel or cathedral.

This is where some 3,000 Catholics pray during five Sunday services, two in English and three in Spanish. During the Christmas holiday, the 600-seat capacity church fills quickly, especially during Spanish-language services, a reflection of the growing importance of Latinos to the local Catholic Church.

Resurrection’s appeal, parishioners say, is an unmatched sense of community that is both humble and accepting.

“It didn’t take too long to get used to,” said Joan Gatley, a Resurrection parishioner since 1976 when she and her family moved up from Southern California. “It was such a welcoming community. We just felt at home immediately,” she said.

After four decades serving as the southwest Santa Rosa parish for the local Catholic Diocese, Resurrection, with its design as a multipurpose community center continues to create a worship experience that in some ways defies the traditional solemn atmosphere of Catholic Mass.

Founded in 1967, the parish on Stony Point Road was born at a time of global upheaval and dramatic social change. Its first pastor helped establish a parish structure that shared authority and gave leity more control over the church.

Resurrection’s growth is owed largely to the surge in the local Latino population, as well as the loyalty of the parish’s largely older white population. The parish’s growth mirrors what is happening to the Catholic Church across the diocese and the country, as it struggles to overcome the loss of non-Latino congregations and contributions.

Read the rest.

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2 responses to “Growing the flock”

  1. A most interesting article which provokes much thought.

    One line that caught my notice was that about 9 million of the Church’s 11 million growth is from immigration, then it seems to me that the “native” Church is losing ground at a much faster pace then I had thought.

    Second, I think of St. Paul’s statement that he strives to be all things for all men for Christ’s sake. Many of us are so embedded in our culture that we cannot see anything good in another. I think the Latino culture sees live much different then the Anglo culture, right down to what community means, or what sacred music should be like.

    After reading this article I would say that the Anglo Church strongly tries to separate the Church from everyday culture, while this parish is either integrating the culture into the church, or the Church into the culture, either way bringing every day life into contact with God.

    I think that is something good.


    Mike L

  2. This parish is in Santa Rosa, not Santa Clara. Santa Rosa is north of San Francisco and Santa Clara is south of San Francisco. The paper is the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat – Santa Clara doesn’t have a big newspaper since it is so close to San Jose.

    Everything is expensive in the San Francisco Bay Area so quite a few new Catholic parishes can not afford to build churches with pews and also build a hall so they build the church so it can be transformed into a hall. I know a few of those types of churches in San Jose. I like pews better myself but I can see the reasoning especially in view of the cost of land and construction here.

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