“Do you know of a parish that has been thriving over the past year? Tell us about it! What has contributed to its fruitfulness?”
When I asked this question via email to our Catholic Leadership Institute community last month, I received a phenomenal email from Fr. David Korth, a graduate of Catholic Leadership Institute’s priest training program: Good Leaders, Good Shepherds. As you will see, Fr. Dave is one amazing priest.
Email from Fr. David Korth, Pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in the Archdiocese of Omaha, President of Christian Urban Education Services, and graduate of Catholic Leadership Institute’s Good Leaders, Good Shepherds program:
I will respond to the first question... do I know a parish that has been thriving over the last year?
Yes I do... ours, Sacred Heart Parish in Omaha, NE. I was blessed to have one of the best videographer’s in the state come to me right when all was shutting down last March and say, “I want to put you on the internet.” So we started by taping our Masses ahead of time and then posting them to YouTube and Facebook on Sunday mornings while we worked to get high speed internet and then eventually cameras installed in the church to livestream. I started receiving feedback that people really loved my homilies that consistently carried a message of hope, and the beautiful music to accompany the liturgies. . . .
Before the pandemic we reached about 600 people per weekend in our little inner-city church. After Easter, our reach grew to about 7,000 views consistently, with one weekend growing to 11,000 views. Someone told me that the industry standard is to multiply the number of views by 2.5 to estimate the number of people you have reached per view. After other churches opened back up again, our views went down to about 3,000 per weekend, and around 800 for daily Mass (that was up from 8 who regularly attended in person).
We then formed a team to discuss how to get these viewers to “go deeper” in their relationship with the Lord, and talked with others how to grow online engagement.
I have received hundreds of cards and letters from people all over the country thanking me for the live-streamed Masses and other offerings we have been providing. The messages that really stir my heart are those that say things like, “Our adult children had all left the church, but now they are viewing your Masses every weekend and are feeling connected to the Church again.”
Another way we were able to respond (I don’t think “thrive” is the right word here) this past year was in dealing with the George Floyd/racism situation. We had already started responding to the issue of racism three years prior to last summer. We had a Social Justice Committee that went through a planning and discernment process to come up with three priority areas: 1. Neighborhood Alliance (racism, issues of inequality in the inner-city) 2. Immigration, and 3. Our Common Home (environment, going “green”).
Last fall we responded to the divide in our nation due to the election by inviting people to an online book study held in small groups on Zoom of “Love Your Enemies” by Arthur Brooks.
Financially, we have never been stronger due to the generosity of our online viewers. I never “preach” about money, but in the prerecorded “opening” to our Mass, a parishioner lets them know how they can support our parish. We are over $100,000 better than we were the year prior to the pandemic.
I am truly grateful for the training I received through Good Leaders, Good Shepherds that has enhanced my leadership during these unprecedented times... thank you!