Our Sunday Visitor Institute Helps L'Alto Catholic Institute Grow National Presence

With the support of a grant from the Our Sunday Visitor Institute, L’Alto will be able to bring its services to more parishes and dioceses in 2019 and 2020.

L’Alto Catholic Institute is pleased to announce a partnership with the Our Sunday Visitor Institute (OSVI) designed to make parishes hubs of missionary discipleship and beacons of the New Evangelization for the post-modern world.

Multiple different surveys and studies display a sobering picture for the Church in the U.S. As the number of Catholics rapidly declines, the fasting growing religious affiliation has become the “nones”, or those who profess no religious affiliation at all.

L’Alto Catholic Institute was formed in early 2017 with one simple idea: the parish is the great missionary opportunity for the Church. Its core conviction is that, if the structures of each parish can become radically oriented toward mission and forming disciples, the statistic trends we see can be turned around in a generation. In a time of possible discouragement, the Church should instead be enlivened by a bold and new missionary moment.

In order to become hubs of missionary discipleship, however, parishes generally need to undergo a significant cultural change and many want support in that matter. L’Alto Catholic Institute’s Parish Partnership, a nine month accompanying relationship, represents a substantial investment by L’Alto in a parish’s core leadership to begin setting a vision for how that community Wins, Builds, and Sends disciples. Historically, this Parish Partnership has only been operated by L’Alto’s area directors, but this grant from OSVI will allow L’Alto to expand those offerings to include a distance coaching option with video conferencing sessions, on-site visits, resources, and more.

Tim Glemkowski, founder and president director of L’Alto Catholic Institute, said of the OSVI grant that, “As a nascent apostolate, the support of OSVI as we grow nationally is an incredible benefit to our mission. Furthermore, we are grateful that an organization like Our Sunday Visitor, which is so widely respected in the Church, is willing to support innovative solutions to the contemporary challenges the Church in the U.S. and the world is facing!” 

“We dream of a Church where every single Catholic is an intentional disciple, living radically out their calls to holiness and mission in the midst of Christ’s own Church.”

For inquiries, contact L’Alto Catholic Institute at laltocatholic.com/contact or 630 384 9031.

Tim Glemkowski
The Four Types of Parishes (Dying, Declining, Swelling, Growing)
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How is the health and vitality of your parish? Will it be around in twenty years?

Through my work at L’Alto Catholic Institute, I have come to realize that every parish in the United States can be put into one of four buckets.

  1. Dying

  2. Declining

  3. Swelling

  4. Growing (Healthy)

1) Dying parishes are on their last legs. A great example is my dad’s childhood parish. When he was growing up, there were three Catholic parishes within a few blocks. When all of the Polish people who had originally settled in the neighborhood had kids who moved out, however, they were not necessarily replaced by people who were Catholic. At a certain point, harsh as it sounds, a parish hits a tipping point where there is just not enough practically to be able to sustain a community. Revitalization becomes difficult, if not impossible. The best scenario for this parish is actually for it to combine with other communities to create a solid base from which to bring renewal.

2) Declining parishes are the majority of parishes in the United States. The scary thing about a declining parish is that it might not even recognize yet that it is declining! There may be a veneer of health. Overall attendance has stayed about the same, offertory is about where it was 20 years ago, maybe a dip of 10% or so, but underneath the surface, there are cracks. RE classes are much smaller than they were 20 years ago. There are fewer young families in the pews, leading to a higher average age. Fewer people are engaged in the life of the parish.

Here is the harsh reality. In our current context, if a parish is in “maintenance mode,” it is actually already declining. Though the facade of health is still there, and the parish might even have a lot of ministries, the failure to form disciples across multiple generations means that this parish will eventually hit a demographic cliff if something does not change. These parishes need to commit to revitalization today before they hit a point where it will become much more difficult, if not impossible.

The upside is, it is not too late! A declining parish can still turn things around by committing to becoming a Growing parish. This is a great scenario from which to drive renewal because if this parish commits to forming disciples, the people and the resources are there to actually move the needle!

3) Swelling parishes are usually parishes in areas where there has been a huge population growth in recent memory. Maybe the suburban sprawl reached what used to be a more rural community and new developments led to a huge influx of families. These are typically those parishes where you see numbers of families in the 5000+ ballpark. The diocese has yet to build a lot of parishes in the area to meet the growing need, so one lucky parish boomed seemingly overnight. The issue here is that the growth in numbers can be mistaken for overall health. Activity can be seen as vitality. If the mission of the Church is to form disciples, though, these parishes have to scratch beneath the surface to see if they are really accomplishing that mission. Just because attendance and offertory is up does not mean the Church is necessarily forming disciples. It is even often the case that, if you look at the statistics, the parish is not growing at the same rate as the surrounding area.

4) Growing and healthy parishes are those who are growing for one reason only: formation of disciples. These parishes feel different. The Adoration chapel is full. Confession lines are long. They have dynamic outreach to the community both in terms of social justice and evangelization. Members of the parish are routinely living out the mission of spreading the Gospel in their own lives. They take personal ownership for the mission of the Church, feeling deeply the call to missionary discipleship. This parish is seeing reasonable growth in attendance and offertory and it is more sustainable because it is replicating across multiple generations. Even if the parish is in an area seeing overall population decline, the numbers of families in the parish is actually holding steady or even growing.  Dozens are baptized at the Easter Vigil every year and people are having life-changing encounters with Jesus on a regular basis. This is the parish you want to be and it is also the parish Jesus wants you to be.

Without becoming a missional, Growing parish, Swelling parishes eventually become Declining parishes, and Declining parishes eventually become Dying parishes. We have already seen this happen in many communities over the last few generations.

So, how, then, do you become a Growing parish?

If I have to summarize the hallmarks of a healthy, growing parish in as simple language as possible it would be that every Growing parish is characterized by these two realities:

1) Everyone in the parish understands that the mission of the parish is to form disciples both of those in the pews and non-members.

2) Everyone has an abundantly clear understanding of the process whereby disciples are formed in the parish and how their unique gifts play a role in that process.

Growing parishes know that their mission is to form disciples, they have a clear understanding for how that actually happens in their context, and they have been faithfully carrying out that mission for a decade, leading to culture change over time.

That is it. It is really that simple. Instilling these two hallmarks can be easier said than done though!

This is adopting Christ’s own vision for the parish as your own. By making the mission to form disciples central to everything that happens, at your parish, you are living out the heart of the Great Commission. The difference maker, though, is not to allow that mission to just be a statement on a website somewhere but to also become extremely strategic as far as how that actually happens in your community.

After you have set this vision and the strategy, everything else becomes just tactics. What programs, initiatives, events, groups, etc. you use can be unique to your parish setting, as long as they are serving a clear discipleship pathway that reflects the catechumenal model and discipleship thresholds. This provides incredible flexibility as far as the actual plan as long as it all just comes back to making sure that everything that happens in your parish serves those two hallmarks. just

Tim Glemkowski
Called: An Interview with Kevin Cotter on His New Book!

I think that Kevin Cotter, the executive director for content of Amazing Parish (amazingparish.org) is one of the more genuine, prayerful and passionate leaders and missionary disciples in the Church today. I love the concept of his latest book from Ave Maria Press, Called: Becoming an Everyday Disciple in the Post-Christian World. It’s a five-week guide to becoming an everyday disciple. To me, this book fills one of the big missing pieces in the conversation around discipleship in the Church today.

My recommendation is that you buy 10 copies of Called and work through it together with a group of leaders at your parish.

Kevin Cotter is the Executive Director of Programming at Amazing Parish. He previously served with FOCUS for 11 years as a missionary and Sr. Director of Curriculum. He’s the author of numerous FOCUS resources and five books, including Dating Detox with his wife Lisa. Kevin holds a bachelor’s degree in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Benedictine College and a master’s degree in Sacred Scripture from the Augustine Institute. He lives with his family in Denver, Colorado.

Inspired by Called, and wanting to share about it with friends of L’Alto, I reached out to Kevin and conducted a brief interview to give you all a fuller sense of what inspired this book. Without further ado, enjoy!

L’ALTO: Kevin, you have been involved in the work of evangelization and discipleship for a long-time, professionally through your work at FOCUS and now at Amazing Parish, and in your own life. What do you see as the current strengths of the Church in the U.S. with respect to the New Evangelization and what are our weaknesses?

KEVIN COTTER: I believe the biggest strength is the amount of energy right now aimed at evangelization and missionary discipleship. From the bishops to priests, to the laity, there's an understanding that we can't simply continue to do what we've done in our Church and in our parishes. There's an acceptance that the secular culture has driven many people away from the Fath and that we need to do a better job attracting people to it. We must go on mission and there's still a confidence that something can be done to turn the tide. 

In regards to weaknesses, there aren't a lot of people who know how to fix the problem, so to speak. Like many things in our society, we look for quick fixes that can be provided by programs or campaigns. In reality, the problem is much deeper. We are in need of a deeper conversion if we are going to be deeply convicted about evangelization and see a significant shift at the parish level. It will take much more effort and much longer than people realize to have our Church switch to mission mode.

L’ALTO: I think that Called fills a really important gap in the current offerings and resources surrounding discipleship. What were you hoping to accomplish with this book? What was the need that you saw?

COTTER: By our Baptism, every Catholic is called to evangelize. The problem is that so few people know how to do this. We still don't have a very deep culture of the laity spreading the faith. I love the Church's call to evangelize, but it can be frustrating to be asked to do something that you don't know how to do. It's easy to talk about evangelization as a concept or a theory, but I felt like there needed to be more content on how to actually start the process. The goal of this book was to give practical steps on how to begin to evangelize. 

L’ALTO: I love how you walk the reader through an intentional process of Win-Build-Send as they journey through the 5 weeks of daily reflections. To me, this was a really unique and effective way for a book to be laid out. Tell me more about the decision to structure Called this way. 

COTTER: The goal of 5 weeks of daily reflections is to help the reader create a habit of thinking, praying, and working on how to be an evangelist (many habits take 30 days to begin to form). Each day is short enough to get through in just a few minutes and there are reflections that can lead to a time in prayer. The book is broken up into Win-Build-Send in order to show the progression that many evangelists must go through. While you don't have to uniformly progress from one stage to the next, it is important to see that we must have encounter with Jesus and His Church (Win), that we follow after Jesus and learn to be like Him (Build), and that we go out to share him with others (Send). 

L’ALTO: If you could pick one out of the 35 reflections for someone to read, which would it be and why? 

COTTER: I would start with the first chapter for a couple of reasons. The first chapter begins the week on encounter. In order to be great evangelists, we must have a deep encounter with him and continually encounter our Lord each day. This chapter uses stories from the lives of the saints and how a deeper encounter can naturally lead to following Jesus more closely and sharing him with others. I think it sums up the goal of the book well. Also, starting on the first chapter helps people begin the journey to learn how to evangelize. Starting can be the hardest part, but it can lead to an amazing journey.

L’ALTO: Is discipleship just a buzzword? Is this a fad? 

COTTER: Well, on one hand, discipleship is a buzzword and fad right now, but on the other hand, it's something that's been around for 2,000 years. One hallmark of Vatican II was to go back to the early sources of our Faith, to Scripture and to the Early Church Fathers. I believe that the concentration on discipleship is apart of this. We are remembering the great tradition of what it means to follow Jesus and to invite others to follow Him as well. This is the beginning of our faith, something that will never go away, and it's just as relevant today as it was 2,000 years ago.

Get your copies of Called today by clicking HERE.

Tim Glemkowski
L'Alto's expansion featured across Catholic media!

As you may have heard, L'Alto Catholic Institute announced some very exciting news. We are expanding our organization's mission nationally!

Catholic News Agency wrote a fabulous piece on our expansion that was then picked up by various other Catholic publications. It was a blessing to have the word spread about our mission so quickly!

You can read CNA's piece here

Tim Glemkowski
L'Alto featured on Relevant Radio's "Morning Air"

I had a great time on Relevant Radio's "Morning Air" a couple of weeks ago talking parish renewal through forming disciples!

Morning Air was the first ever Catholic radio program that I heard growing up. When my mom would drive me to school my freshman year in high school, she would always put on Morning Air with Jeff Cavins! It was an honor to be featured on one of the biggest Catholic radio programs in the country.

For the audio of my interview and a summary article, click here

Tim Glemkowski