by Joe Bollig
OVERLAND PARK — There’s a simple reason why Father Greg Hammes attended the Amazing Parish conference.
“Because I needed it,” he said.
He’s not alone. Approximately 560 people from 37 dioceses and archdioceses attended the conference, held June 21-23, at the Overland Park Convention Center. The attendees included archbishops, bishops, priests, deacons, male and female religious, and laypeople fulfilling various roles at their parishes.
Groups from eight archdiocesan parishes and one high school attended.
“It sounded ideal for a new pastor in a new parish to invite people,” said Father Hammes, nearing his first anniversary as pastor at Prince of Peace Parish in Olathe. “It really brings a group together. I included some of my key staff, who I think can really help me. I get to know them, and they get to know me. We get a common vision. It sounded ideal for where I’m at for the parish and our leadership.”
Amazing Parish is a Denver-based organization that endeavors to train pastors and laypeople to adopt new methods of leadership and management, and to establish new cultures of prayer, teamwork and discipleship by modeling behavior.
How are parishes made amazing?
“We believe it starts with leadership,” said Kevin Cotter, executive director of Amazing Parish. He is originally a member of Church of the Nativity Parish in Leawood, and his wife Lisa is originally from Ascension Parish in Overland Park.
“If you want a team or a company to be better, you need better leadership,” he said. “Our parishes are different . . . but in many ways are the same. If we want our parishes to be alive and faithful, that culture has to start at the top. We need to see it from our pastor, and from his key staff members, and all through the key volunteers and to parishioners as well.”
The leadership model presented by Amazing Parish is one where the pastor forms a parish leadership team — not the same as the parish council, which is supposed to act like a board — that assists the pastor with day-to-day things so he doesn’t have to do it all alone.
There are three building blocks to the Amazing Parish.
“We believe any great parish will have a culture of prayer, teamwork and discipleship,” said Cotter. “They’re going to have a culture of prayer. God is real and they’re going to act like it. They’re going to pray like it. They’re going to pray for each other and people in their parish. They’re going to have teamwork. They’ll know they just can’t stay in their silos. It’s actually a team that works together. And if we want disciples in our parish, we as staff members have to act like disciples.”
Modeling behaviors — living these principles — is an important part of being an Amazing Parish.
“It’s one thing to talk about evangelization and discipleship, but then do we ourselves do those things, do we have those conversations?” said Cotter. “That’s why behaviors are so important. It’s easy to talk about high concepts but it’s much harder to practice them. We see a big part of our work is getting parishes to a place where they can practice those things and see that model, so they know what it looks like.”
Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, who attended the Amazing Parish conference, was very encouraged by the event. Amazing Parish works well with the archdiocesan Enflame evangelization initiative launched in 2019.
“This was one of the ways we encouraged parishes to possibly follow up from Enflame,” said Archbishop Naumann. “With Enflame, we hope to have every pastor surrounded by a group of lay leaders that will help them form that parish community and missionary disciples.”
Father Arul Carasala, pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Seneca, wondered if Amazing Parish will work for smaller parishes like his. He plans to build his parish leadership team and then see how to get his evangelization team on board.
“Here is the struggle our parish is going to have,” said Father Carasala. “The last part of the program they offered was the parish leadership team and how it functions.”
“That’s where we may have to vary it a little bit to fit our need because most of the stuff they talked about for the parish leadership team is mostly from the staff and maybe one or two volunteers,” he continued. “And my parish leadership team is 100 percent volunteers. We don’t have that big a staff to manage here. So that is where we have to think outside of the box and how we are going to meet.
“But, still, the style and content will be the same — cultivate a culture of prayer, teamwork and discipleship.”