Excellent Catholic Parishes: The Guide to Best Places and Practices

Wilkes, Paul. Excellent Catholic Parishes: The Guide to Best Places and Practices. New York: Paulist Press, 2001.

Paul Wilkes’ Excellent Catholic Parishes represents the culmination of two years of research by the author and his assistants, Melanie Bruce and Marty Minchin, aimed at highlighting parish life in America that is not only exceptional but, above all, reproducible. The goal of these parishes is, to cite Catholic Worker co-founder Peter Maurin, one of “creating places where it is easy to be good.” A key to the parishes profiled in this study is the trust they exhibit both in the laity and in God to do the work of ministry in the world and the community. An additional key is how these parishes connect the meaning of the Catholic faith to the realities people face in their daily lives and the renewed enthusiasm people experience for things religious and spiritual. <p> Eight parishes serve as the book’s focus. These are: Our Lady Help of Christians (Newton, MA); St. Pius X (El Paso, TX); Catholic Area Parishes (Benson, DeGraff, Danvers, Clontarf and Murdock, MN); Holy Family (Inverness, IL); St. Peter Claver (New Orleans, LA); St. Francis of Assisi (Portland, OR); St. Francis of Assisi (Wichita, KS); and St. Mark’s (Boise, ID). Wilkes features several hundred additional “excellent parishes” in the book’s final section. <p> Two additional sections provide the outline of a model of what it takes to achieve an excellent Catholic parish. The first section, “Common Traits of Excellent Parishes,” gathers specific characteristics of these parishes under the headings of approach, institutional life, community, the work and spirituality. A “Points of Excellence Index” follows which highlights specific programs and ministries grouped under the headings of worship, education, evangelization, outreach, spirituality/inreach, and organization.