Thriving Parishes

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While parish closings and mergers dominate headlines in certain parts of the country, they don’t tell the full story of the Church in the United States. Parishes across America are attracting new generations of Catholics by opening their doors to those seeking the beauty and the fullness of truth that can only be found in the Church. Our Sunday Visitor is proud to highlight five of these dynamic parishes that are flourishing as they answer the Gospel call to share the message of Christ. From increased Eucharistic adoration to offering the faithful a beautiful liturgy to focusing on hospitality, these parishes are empowering their flocks to participate fully in the sacramental and spiritual life of the Church. It is our hope that in holding up these examples, parishes across the country will begin a conversation about their own struggles and successes as they strive to bring the peace and joy of Christ to all. Share your parish’s success story by emailing feedback@osv.com . Emily Stimpson Chapman is an OSV contributing editor. Small parish focuses on millennials Our Lady of Lourdes | Denver, Colorado Our Lady of Lourdes in Denver has seen a 50 percent increase in Sunday mass attendance over the past few years. Courtesy photo On the southside of Denver, big things are happening at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church. Over the past couple of years, the small (currently 920 families) neighborhood parish has experienced a 50-percent growth in Sunday Mass attendance. During the same time period, offertory contributions have increased by 35 percent. Outside of Mass, the parish school that almost closed six years ago has been revamped by a new principal; it now offers a classical curriculum and is once more thriving. More than 20 small groups, most comprised of young adults, meet regularly. And on weekday evenings, parishioners meet up with Our Lady of Lourdes’ pastor, Father Brian Larkin, at a local pub for theological conversations. “We’re not trying to do everything,” insists John O’Brien, the parish’s faith-formation director. “We’re trying to do a few things and do them well: invest in evangelization; invest in classical education for the schools; and invest in hospitality, so our parishioners feel like this is a real human community.” Our Lady of Lourdes began doing those things just over five years ago. They recognized that the neighborhood — built, like the church, in the 1950s — was changing. Older parishioners were passing away, while young adults and families were flocking to the neighborhood. If the parish wanted to stay alive, it needed to attract those young people. And that, they knew, would be no small feat. “Less than 4 percent of millennials go to church on a regular basis,” O’Brien said. “So how do you attract them?” Our Lady of Lourdes’ approach was multifold. Revamping the school was an important first step. “A lot of families appreciate that our school is not a public school with a Catholic stamp,” says O’Brien. “It offers a deep Catholic culture, based in joy.” The parish also has placed an emphasis on beauty — in the liturgy, music and architecture. The parish hired a former worship leader from Franciscan University of Steubenville (Ohio) to direct its music, began offering candlelight adoration services at its outdoor grotto and is undertaking renovations to the church itself, all to enhance parishioners encounter of God through the beautiful. “Our culture is so broken,” O’Brien explained. “People don’t believe in truth. They’re not interested in goodness. But they do respond to beauty.” The parish also started hosting “Gatherings at the Grotto” (monthly discussions on Church issues and teachings, followed by a reception), regularly running the Alpha Program (which O’Brien describes as “a great on-boarding for people in the Faith”) and putting a renewed emphasis on challenging preaching that speaks to the difficulties young singles and families face. Even the small details — like the parish’s revamped …