Should be obvious. To renew the Church, renew parishes. When I think of all the energy, resources, and human capital misspent on programs, extra-parochial projects and products, each of which hawk their products and services to parishes, so many with precious little ROI, I ask:

What if all the talent and energy clogged up in the extra-ecclesiastical complex (EEC) were located in cooperating parishes rather than in a market competing for limited parish dollars? What if that talent was grown and supported in parishes themselves?

The parish is an organic unit of the Church; the idea it needs the EEC to thrive is silly. Perhaps the market model and the Church’s operational model are the problem. Perhaps parishes need only become places where that talent can thrive in-house and where those gifts are shared.

Just thinking out loud. As a pastor, I’m pitched goods and services every day, and often I ask, “Why do I need this? Why is this person selling/promising renewal? Why doesn’t this talented young person come serve in a parish rather than work as a sales rep for the EEC?”

We Catholics have the truth and the talent. It’s truly amazing. It’s just sometimes I worry about the business models we adopt. They don’t work. If we could figure that out, though, the Catholic Church would become an irresistible force for Christ in this world.

But again, it all begins in the parish. Renew the parish, renew the Church. But that means we have to stop seeing parishes as targets in a marketplace and the faithful as consumers. Of course, the Church would have to transform too. This ain’t just an EEC problem.

Again, just thinking out loud. I truly appreciate so much of what my colleagues in ministry do, in parishes and outside of them. Likely we’ll never have a perfect “model.” But we should always be willing to ask these questions for the sake of a Gospel more important than us. Pax.