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.
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.