Canadian priest’s unorthodox evangelization drawing people to the pews

Details, from the Catholic Register:

A financial analyst turned priest, Fr. Mario Salvadori is marketing an unorthodox and unapologetic formula of evangelization — and youth are flocking to it.

Salvadori, the only priest at Thornhill’s St. Joseph the Worker parish, jokes that he has “more degrees than a thermometer.” He has a bachelor’s degree in computer science, a master’s degree in theology and a master’s in business administration. Before he was a priest, Salvadori was a businessman. In many ways, he still is.

“I used to be able to sell a glass of water to a drowning man,” he said. “Now I sell Jesus Christ.”

His congregation in this Toronto suburb seems to be buying it.

“The numbers speak for themselves,” said Vlad Mamaradlo, the lay minister Salvadori hired to work with youth. Mamaradlo said every Mass is standing room only. “Even the foyer is full.”

And in the five years since Salvadori joined the parish, he’s paid off a $1.3-million renovation and $600,000 more off the mortgage.

Salvadori’s success stems from his approach to Mass. For him, evangelization is no different than marketing. “It’s just a different word,” he said. He and Mamaradlo look at Catholicism as a product they are selling. Something that, they say, the Church has failed to sell.

“In society, people are given options,” Mamaradlo said, “so let’s give them options.”

What Salvadori has given them is a refreshing twist on the traditional Mass. When he ordered the church renovation back in 2009, he made sure it would accommodate his style for delivering just that.

“We’re competing against 60-inch TVs, iPods and every other stimulation that’s out there,” Mamaradlo said.

So, Salvadori brought the technology to Mass. Every homily, his laptop is plugged into the pulpit, at the ready to bring up a clip on the two huge screens on either side of him.

He invites guest speakers and tackles current and controversial topics that many priests tend to shy away from — topics that weigh heavily on everyday life. One homily he delivered in May included a clip of U.S. President Barack Obama speaking about gay marriage. That homily has collected more than 300 views on YouTube as have some of his other videos posted on the site.

There are other options too, opportunities to connect with the congregation outside the now lessthan-traditional construct of Mass. There are trips downtown to feed the homeless, youth groups, parish events, even retreats in the United States that young people can sign up for.

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Photo: Evan Boudreau


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