Parish Cultivates Christ, Cookies, & Community

One of the things I love most about Catholic Leadership Institute’s Next Generation Parish endeavor is that NGP gives pastors the support, vision, and team of lay leaders needed to think differently for our Church.

Today, I share with you one of my favorite parish engagement activities that stemmed from NGP (hint: it involves Christmas cookies and a pastor’s beautiful dream).

As we enter the month of December, know that I am praying for you, for your parishes, and for your loved ones as we eagerly anticipate our Savior’s birth!

SCROLL DOWN to read, watch, and bake!

“NGP has been able to help me deepen my desire and the intention embedded in my heart to build community from my childhood parish that made a big impression on my life and my faith – through NGP I was able to take and observe the gifts from my parish and bring them to the parish in a way that serves the people and serves God. I always had this vision in my mind to recreate that beautiful parish community from my childhood, but I never knew how to do it. NGP presented a platform to execute that.”
– Fr. Miguel, Pastor at St. James Cathedral Catholic Church

Fr. Miguel’s Dream

Fr. Miguel, pastor of St. James Cathedral in Orlando, FL, entered Next Generation Parish with a dream – to bring the joy, love for the Lord, and the community he experienced in his childhood parish in Puerto Rico to St. James. His childhood parish inspired his vocation, and he wanted that vibrancy for his current parish. 

But to bring that dream to fruition, he needed support, vision, direction, and lay leaders to help him progress toward that dream. NGP was the answer to his prayer.

For Fr. Miguel, Next Generation Parish was a way to move forward, grow in his vocation, and build his team and skills. Over four years, St. James made significant strides in deepening the spiritual journeys of the people in the pews.

Here are just a few examples of St. James’ beautiful progress:

  • Significant increase in spiritual growth at the parish
  • Parish membership grew over the course of NGP
  • Increase in those who describe their relationship with Jesus as most important in their life
  • More parishioners witnessing to the story of Jesus (this is a very rare increase seen during the pandemic)
  • New opportunities created to engage families and young people

Parish Executes “Batter” Ideas and “Stirs Up” Community Engagement!

St. James also executed the most unique community bonding activity we observed in NGP. They brought people together during COVID to make Christmas cookies via a code they could scan with their phones. While a simple task, it was a microcosm of the big idea inherent within Next Generation Parish – thinking differently. 

Below, watch how Fr. Miguel and Fr. Matthew used lighthearted holiday laughs during challenging times last year to deliver an important invitation for St. James parishioners at the conclusion.

These two wonderful priests are having a lot of fun… but that fun is complemented by a great desire and care for wanting parishioners to return to their parish and be with Jesus. Parishioners embraced this message.

Today, Fr. Miguel and the people of St. James Cathedral have a bold vision for their parish. They know where they want to go, they are far better equipped, they find greater joy in ministry, and they have a plan to get there.

For St. James Cathedral, the progress toward Fr. Miguel’s dream continues as parishioners draw closer and closer to Christ… and that progress is pretty “sweet!”

by Becky Reilley

December 01, 2022

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