Importance of the Pastor in American Catholic Parishes

Project Number: 
Start Date: 
Sun, 12/01/1991
End Date: 
Tue, 06/30/1992

Thomas Sweetser, Carol Holdin, and Patricia Foster directed the “Parish Evaluation Project” that tested the hypothesis that the pastor is the primary determinant of a successful Catholic parish. Previous research undertaken by the Parish Evaluation Project discovered such indicators as adult development, bridging gaps, celebrative rituals, facilitating leadership, fostering community, ownership, planning, room for the marginals and servant image as significant for parish health and vitality. Still, the pastor continued to surface as the key ingredient for a successful parish. Findings from the planning project would serve to initiate a future project on the pastor’s role for parish success. <p> To test their hypothesis, Sweetser, Holdin, and Foster read from an extensive list of books on congregational studies and interviewed twenty-four people in congregational research. During the interviews they asked individuals to evaluate the methodology they planned to use for the follow-up study. Readings and interviews consistently confirmed their original supposition. They discovered, though, that the term “successful” in reference to the parish was problematic, leading them to prefer words such as “vital” instead. The study also yielded a list of qualities required of a good pastor. Results of the study will aid diocesan leaders, local parishes, seminaries and pastors to understand the dynamics of good pastoral leadership for the local parish.