Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Catholic Church is Born Again

This is such a great story! I used to pass this church on my way to work and was impressed by how busy it always looked, weekday or weekend
On Easter Sunday, two huge video screens will project praise hymns in this Catholic church as the rock 'n' roll choir leads the celebration of Jesus' resurrection. The priest will consecrate the Eucharist from a lowered altar that brings him closer to his people. Flowering dogwood branches will encircle the church's baptismal font, now an immersion pool in the center aisle surrounded by four gurgling fountains..

Holy Family Catholic Parish Community in Inverness is marking its own rebirth this weekend, opening a $1.4 million renovated sanctuary to its 12,000 parishioners that embraces many elements of the Protestant evangelical movement.

The changes might seem unusual to old-school Catholics. They have raised eyebrows among more orthodox leaders in the archdiocese. But the pastor and parishioners say they are carving the model for the future American Catholic Church.

In contrast to many other Catholic churches where attendance has dropped, Holy Family Parish is booming, even winning back Catholics who were attending Willow Creek, the nondenominational megachurch 3 miles away. Holy Family, with more than 3,700 families, is one of the largest congregations in the archdiocese.

The secret to the 22-year-old church's success has been replicating what growing churches are doing, but in a Catholic way. The result is an innovative congregation that bills itself as "an evangelical church in the Roman Catholic tradition."

"I think what happened to the Catholic Church is we became a little comfortable with ourselves and forgot some of what made us Catholic. We forgot what made us passionate," said Holy Family's pastor, Rev. Pat Brennan. "So I've just taken the best that I've seen of Catholic parishes and evangelical churches and put them together to make Holy Family. In doing that, I think we've rediscovered the heart of Catholicism."

Like several other parishioners, Mary Whiteside said she was on the verge of abandoning her Catholic faith when she found Holy Family. On her first visit, Whiteside said she was hooked by the music and the pastor's riveting homilies. Her husband, Phil, who was raised a Baptist, was so moved that he converted to Catholicism.

"Great things are happening in this church. We're just very alive," said Whiteside, who is on the parish leadership council. "We're sharing some elements of the evangelical church, but I don't think we're trading any part of our Catholic identity."

Holy Family was started two decades ago when Cardinal Joseph Bernardin became concerned about the large numbers of Catholics in the northern suburbs leaving their churches to become members of Willow Creek Community Church. In 1984, the former archbishop purchased 16 acres of farmland in Inverness and founded a new parish community, Holy Family.

For more about this vibrant church, read the Tribune's article. Their website is also really intersting.


Emily said...

Scott's dad shared this story with us today. His mother (who is 88 and we were pretty certain that when she dies it would truly be a time for mourning, I think you understand why). Anyway somehow because of this article we now know that when it does come time for her to pass it will be a time of joy and thanksgiving!

I share this story with you later in more detail. Thinking about it is making me start to cry. It's just that beautiful!!

Crystal said...

Sorry that was me not Emily...stop laughing at me Emily!!