Rhode Island congregations seeking rejuvenation through Dynamic Parish program

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PROVIDENCE — Five parishes in the Diocese of Providence have “launched” on a five-year journey to become “dynamic” centers of prayer, study, generosity and evangelization.
“My greatest hope is to help people move from simply being parishioners to really being disciples of the Lord and to enter into a personal relationship with Jesus,” said Father Michael Najim, pastor of St. Pius X Church in Westerly.
St. Pius V is one of the local churches participating in the Dynamic Parish program, an initiative of Dynamic Catholic, a Kentucky-based nonprofit that provides faith formation and catechetical resources and evangelization tools for individual Catholics and parish faith formation teams.
Founded by Matthew Kelly, a well-known Catholic author and speaker, Dynamic Catholic began its Dynamic Parish program in 2018 with 21 parishes in four dioceses around the country. This year, the program has been expanded to 40 more parishes in eight additional dioceses.
“We’re helping parishes directly with many things, ultimately helping them to create more dynamic Catholics, parishioners who pray, are generous with their time, talent and treasure, and who are willing to share their faith with others,” said Dynamic Parish Co-Leader Scot Landry.
Landry said Dynamic Catholic’s philosophy is to transform parishes “one parishioner at a time” by creating “trigger moments” where they begin to understand the profound truths of the Catholic faith, and then aim to deepen their knowledge and active commitment to the Christian life.
“What we’re trying to do is focus on people who are present in the parish but haven’t been sparked to give their all in really living their Catholic faith,” said Landry, who added that he reached out to the diocese last year about bringing Dynamic Parish to Rhode Island.
Dynamic Catholic offers its resources to five parishes in each of the selected dioceses. Leaders at Dynamic Catholic hoped for parishes with unique geographical and institutional characteristics to best meet its goals.
Landry said diocesan leadership worked collaboratively with Dynamic Catholic staffto identify an initial pool of 13 parishes as potential candidates for Dynamic Parish.
“Scott Landry and his staff worked with the diocese and local pastors to discern which parishes might respond well to Dynamic Parish’s unique methodology for parish rejuvenation,” said Father Nathan J. Ricci, assistant chancellor for the Diocese of Providence.
“Some of the parishes have already worked with Dynamic Catholic in the past and were comfortable with its materials,” Father Ricci said. “The pastors and parish leadership teams have expressed excitement about this program. They see this as one more opportunity to help their parishioners grow in friendship with Christ, deepen their knowledge of the Faith and learn the tools necessary to evangelize the culture.
In addition to St. Pius X, the Dynamic Parish program is being implemented at St. Joseph Church in Woonsocket, St. Jean Vianney Church in Cumberland, St. Philip Church in Greenville and St. Augustine Church in Providence.
Deb Carey, the parish secretary at St. Pius X Church, is on the “Implementation Team” helping Father Najim with guiding parishioners through the program. Carey described Kelly’s approach as “very prophetic,” adding that she believes Dynamic Parish is “a work of the Holy Spirit.”
“He knows how to tie today’s culture right back to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” Carey said of Kelly. “He has that gift and ability, and he holds people’s attention that way.”
At St. Augustine Church, Sister Dorothy Schwartz, the director of religious education, had already been using Dynamic Catholic’s catechetical resources for her First Communion and Confirmation programs. Sister Dorothy said Dynamic Catholic also has effective instructional materials for people preparing for baptism and RCIA.
“All these programs are so helpful in evangelizing through the sacraments, which are really the key moments of our Catholic life,” said Sister Dorothy, who was “instantly sold” on the Dynamic Parish model.
“Certainly, we want to be able to evangelize more effectively,” Sister Dorothy said. “I also think we’d like to increase our outreach, and we’re hoping this can bring back people who maybe have left the faith. We’d also like to deepen the enthusiasm of the faithful people we already have.”
To re-engage fallen-away Catholics and inspire those already in the pews, Dynamic Parish over the next year will provide a daily online video series during Lent, a documentary screening, a summer email and book program, a journaling program, an Advent video series and discussion groups.
Dynamic Parish’s first year has “Invitation” as its theme, and begins with pastors announcing, or “launching,” the program at Sunday Mass. Over the next four years, the parishes will go through activities focused on themes around prayer, study, generosity and evangelization.
The participating pastors recently announced the beginning of Dynamic Parish to their parishioners during Sunday Mass. The next step will be a “Bigger Future” survey to gauge where parishioners are in their current practice of the faith. In March, the parishes will host a “Dream Event” where parishioners are asked to share their dreams for themselves and their parishes.
“It may be that people have an individual experience but also can see themselves as a member of a parish community and how that will help impact their journey and the journey of the faith community where they worship,” said Father Robert Forcier, the pastor of St. Augustine Church.
Father Forcier, who recently traveled to Dynamic Catholic’s headquarters in Kentucky, said Kelly’s mission to help people “rediscover the genius of Catholicism” underpins much of the program’s success.
“Another thing that I think is pertinent to our understanding of his approach is that it meets people where they are,” Father Forcier said. “There have been many wonderful renewal programs in the Church over the years, but I feel this is a sustainable, accessible program that I think will speak to people where they are right now in their lives.”
Father Ricci said the diocese is “excited to see the fruits the Lord will bring out of this” initiative, for the individual parishes and the local Church as well.
“We hope Dynamic Parish inspires parishioners to deepen their relationship with Christ and share his invitation of discipleship as missionary witnesses,” Father Ricci said. “When people love their faith and speak authentically about the Gospel, people are drawn to the Church.”