Program #0472 for Wednesday, February 20, 2013: “Rebuilt”: A new book about transforming a parish

February 20, 2013

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"Rebuilt": A new book about transforming a parish

“Rebuilt”: A new book about transforming a parish

Summary of today’s show: When Fr. Michael White was assigned to Church of the Nativity parish in Maryland, he nearly burned out trying to serve all the demands on him, until he realized that they were doing it all wrong. Scot Landry, Fr. Matt Williams, and Dom Bettinelli discuss the new book “Rebuilt” written by Fr. White and his associate, including the ten assumptions about parish life that everyone believes and is almost universally wrong.

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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Fr. Matt Williams

Today’s guest(s): Domenico Bettinelli

Links from today’s show:

Today’s topics: “Rebuilt”: A new book about transforming a parish

1st segment: Scot Landry welcomed Fr. Matt Williams to the show. They discussed the new Jesus in Harvard Square program they’ll be doing at St. Paul’s in Cambridge, which is just like the Jesus in the North End program they’ve been doing for the past several years. Young adults and college students will come for Mass, adoration, and fellowship, including evangelistic outreach in the streets of Harvard Square.

Scot added that on Friday at noon, Cardinal Seán will celebrate a Mass for the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter for Pope Benedict and his eventual successor. It will be broadcast on WQOM and at He noted that this Friday will also be the 7th anniversary of Cardinal Seán being named a cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI.

He also noted that tonight starts The Light Is On For You initiative from 6:30 to 8pm in every parish and chapel in the archdiocese. To find churches in the archdiocese, see More confession resources are at

Today’s topic is a new book called “Rebuilt”, the story of the Church of the Nativity, a parish in the Archdiocese of Baltimore that excels at the use of new media and also is very strong in evangelization. Scot said he’s learned a lot more about this parish in recent weeks and is fascinated about how strategic they have been about addressing the problems that many priests in our archdiocese have said they face in their parishes.

Scot said he’s watched the webcast of their Mass the past two Sundays. He said over the past couple of weeks, the pastor Fr. White has given a background on this book. We’re going to hear some of that to give a flavor of the background that led to the transformation of this parish. It gives an idea of what parishes may do wrong, thinking they’re doing what is right for their parish.

The first clip addresses a key problem in the Church today where parishioners think of themselves as consumers.

2nd segment: Scot said the pastor talks of how he arrived at the parish and had one staff member and tried to better and more service to the parishioners who were coming. And the more they provided, the more demanding they became. They were so preoccupied with those who were coming, they forgot they were supposed to be reaching out to those who weren’t coming to church. They concluded it was a waste of time in terms of people growing in holiness.

Fr. Matt said he was interested how the parishioners went from being consumers to becoming superconsumers. Rather than becoming intentional disciples, they just wanted to receive more and more. Scot said historically immigrants needed help in many ways and the Church served them. As they became settled, they became quiet consumers. After Vatican II, they became demanding consumers or cafeteria Catholics.

Dom talked about the societal context of the consumer mentality and passive entertainment.

Scot reflected on his own consumer mentality when it came to Catholic schools. He used to think about Catholic schools as the responsibility of just those sending their children to Catholics schools. Scot said he was moved by Cardinal Dolan’s message that Catholic education is at the core of the mission of the Church to evangelize.

Now another clip where the pastor, Fr. White, talks of his experience as a one pastor who gives his all.

It ends with him saying that understanding Why we are doing something matters.

Dom talked about the fact that it sounds like a codependent girlfriend or boyfriend. Scot recalled former Celtic coach Rick Pitino saying that the carping of fans was just incessant complaining and whining. Many people don’t step back and consider how hard people are working parishes and how difficult it is.

Fr. Matt said if we only inhaled or only exhaled we’d die. We need both. But in the consumer mentality, it’s only inhale with no invitation to exhale. What makes for a vibrant faith community is people breathing fully, not only coming to be blessed but also to give. he recalled this parochial mentality, where God forbid someone sits in our pew or the Mass goes on more than 45 minutes.

Scot said at parishes like that, nobody is thoroughly satisfied from the pastor on down, but we accept it because the path to change it isn’t always clear.

Chapter one of the book “Rebuilt” is entitled “Church is not easy”. They analyzed some of their assumptions and why they didn’t work.

  • They assumed if they did more and did it better, people would grow in their maturity and commitment.
  • They thought they did more and did it better, people would give more financially.
  • If they did more and did it better, they took it for granted people would automatically get involved and help out.
  • They looked to their stalwart church-goers (mostly senior citizens) as their natural allies going forward and they were wrong. They were surprised at their anger at younger generations.
  • They didn’t appreciate how detached the second- and third-generation of demanding consumers had grown.
  • Even for those who were coming, they didn’t understand how marginalized the whole enterprise of faith and religion had become in the lives of parishioners.
  • They weren’t reaching student populations
  • They didn’t understand how profoundly uninterested the non-church-going population had grown, how distrustful of any outreach efforts they made, and how cynical they could be about all organized religion
  • They were not turned toward God. They were not relying on his leadership. And they were not looking to go where he was blessing.
  • They thought it would be easy.

So they spent a lot of time asking why this parish exists. What is the parish’s why? Another clip from Fr. Michael White’s homily. He defines disciples of Christ as students. They’ve defined their mission as “Love God. Love others. Make disciples.” The Church exists to make disciples. He challenges the experience of his own parish, which is to make disciples not to provide comfort and care for themselves.

Where to start:

  • Define your mission field
  • Describe the “lost” in your mission field
  • Design a simple, specific invitation strategy

3rd segment: This week’s benefactor card raffle winner is Colleen Sears from Sudbury

She wins Be Beautiful, Be You by Lizzie Velazquez

If you would like to be eligible to win in an upcoming week, please visit For a one-time $30 donation, you’ll receive the Station of the Cross benefactor card and key tag, making you eligible for WQOM’s weekly raffle of books, DVDs, CDs and religious items. We’ll be announcing the winner each Wednesday during “The Good Catholic Life” program.

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  1. Rebuilt: Awakening the Faithful, Reaching the Lost, and Making Church Matter | Communio - October 9, 2013

    […] A radio review of the book can be found here. […]