What makes a parish worth sticking around?


The April 2013 issue of US Catholic has an article on “What makes a parish worth sticking around?” They surveyed people on why they have chosen their particular parish.

They asked people how long they’ve been in their current parish, whether they prefer to visit different parishes regularly rather than attend Mass at the same church, whether they attend the closest parish to their home, and other questions. Then they ask about what factors were important to the respondents in choosing a parish:

  1. The important factors for me in choosing a parish are:

Quality of the liturgy - 84%
Effectiveness of pastor - 69%
Extent of lay involvement - 63%
Music - 60%
Parish programs - 55%
Diversity of parishioners - 46%
Proximity to home - 42%
Mass times offered - 37%
Youth/young adult engagement - 27%
Church architecture - 13%
Other - 16%

There were also open-ended questions:

The reason I stay at my current parish is . . .
A reason I decided against continuing to attend a certain parish was . . .
I know I’ve found the right parish for me when . . .

Any thoughts?


For me it comes down to two things:

Is the Mass reverent, licit (valid is nice too, but that goes without saying), traditional (either NO or TLM is fine - just do it RIGHT)
Are the homilies rock solid and teach on Faith and morals

That’s it. The rest is just gravy.



For myself, when I was looking for a new parish there were several things I wanted: good homilies, good music, opportunities to get involved in the parish, and a sense of community. You can’t necessarily find everything you want in one parish so you have to set priorities. What I knew I didn’t want was to leave Mass feeling “blah” – that the priest was going through the motions, the homily was dull, the music was uninspired, and people acted like they were there because they had no choice.


It would be God’s will that you attend Mass and support the parish in which you live. If things are not perfect perhaps you can take a more active part in parish life and have a good influence. This does not mean you cannot attend Mass and take part in activities in other parishes. You can even attend Mass twice on Sundays, one at your parish and one somewhere else. But your parish needs you so give it your support. Linus2nd


For me it’s the community there and the fact that, despite what parish priest we have, the one constant is the community, it is our church.

Priests come and priests go, if we don’t like what one priest is doing I just think, “Long after you have been moved on, we will still be here”. Contrary to what some parish priests seem to think, it is our (the community’s) church and any priest is just a temporary resident carrying out a function until the bishop moves him on.

:thumbsup::thumbsup: Absolutely right!

We should not look on our churches as some type of ‘service industry’ whereby if we do not get the service we personally like then we ‘shop around’ elsewhere.



My parish is run by a religious community. When we recently got a new pastor he made a point of saying “we come and go, but you’re the ones who are here for 10 years, 20 years, or more, and we have to respect that.” Of course things still changed with the new pastor – a different personality, different interests, different priorities from the old one.

I know some people who will stay when they get a pastor they don’t like figuring they can outlast him. I know others who come and go with pastors. They like Parish A but don’t like a new pastor so they move to Parish B. Then when Parish A gets a replacement they move back to that parish.


I am in the worst parish in my diocese (not my estimation but that of a former pastor). I stay for Our Lord. :slight_smile:


The Mass - it must be generally free of liturgical abuse
The homily - it should touch on the grave issues that are part of our lives today such as:
*]abortion, contraception, same-sex relations, euthanasia, etc.

Almost no parish priest will touch on these subjects at Mass. That is one reason why we are in big trouble today. However, if you happen to find a priest with the backbone to hit these subject in the homily, then you have found “a pearl of great price.” Stay there and encourage this brave priest with all your heart.


All interesting posts and thoughts. For about 30 years we belonged to a parish that essentially was controlled by third-generation parishioners who were very clannish. You could get involved, but woe to you if you made suggestions for changes in anything, no matter how the suggestions were conveyed (we saw the backlash multiple times in our term there).

The priests did have some effect on the parish and what happened there, but the long-term culture of the group was one of status quo thinking. I am not referring to orthodoxy or liturgy here–simply to “the way we do things” as a faith community. In fact, they ran off one young priest who was not adequately prepared in seminary or by his predecessor for dealing with parishioner politics.

We relocated and belong to another parish, in another diocese. The difference between the two communities is incredible. Our new parish is welcoming and seeks involvement from all parishioners. It’s easy to become a contributing part of the community, and the liturgy is good, with a priest that challenges us in his homilies to be better people and live more like Christ.
(Not that the other priest at the former parish didn’t.)


Although I currently have two church musician jobs and rarely ever attend mass at my actual parish due to my positions, the two main things I look for in a parish are:

  1. Reverent mass
  2. Spiritually and intellectually stimulating homilies

Music is very important to me, but not absolutely necessary as long as the above two are there.


Interesting that you should write this. Our priest is very open about discussing these issues. Same-sex relations were on the ballot in November here–even though he just presented the truth in a loving manner, many parishioners were upset that he was presenting a message they perceived wasn’t tolerant. They pulled their contributions and now the parish is over $30,000 behind in collections from where we were last year. I have mentioned to our priest on many occasions how much I appreciate that he speaks the truth with love, but I can see where many priests are worried about the fallout. Parishes still need money to operate.


Sad state of affairs when catholic magazines publish marketing surveys with respect to parishes and people treat searching for the right parish like Protestants treat searching for the right church.

Parishes are geographical entities. I guess it is legit to checkout the local parish when house shopping, but once you live somewhere you belong to the parish as defined by your residence.

Can. 518 As a general rule a parish is to be territorial, that is, one which includes all the Christian faithful of a certain territory…


As a Franciscan-influenced person, I say two things make a parish worth sticking around:

  1. A validly-ordained, licit priest.
  2. The use of the Mass approved by Rome.

So long as we have Christ in the holy Sacrament and the Holy Spirit in us by prayer, supplication, and Confirmation, we are called to endure. Parish-hopping is not of Christian community, relationship, unity, and love.

Just my opinion… :slight_smile:


That’s true officially but in reality, many people go someplace other than their territorial parish. I live in a condo complex where the units are grouped in fours. At one time three of the four residents in my grouping were Catholic. We all went to different parishes, and none of us went to our territorial parish. From where I live there are eight parishes within a ten-mile radius, so there’s lots of movement.

People do end up making decisions based on liking the priest at one parish or the religious education program at another or the social justice emphasis in a third. One of the local parishes has one Sunday Mass in English and the remainder in Spanish so it draws a different crowd from the parishes that have one or no Masses in Spanish. One of the parishes has Lifeteen so they draw a lot of the families with high school students. Several of the parishes are staffed by religious orders (which is one of the reasons there are so many parishes in a small area) so people who are drawn to one charism or another end up at different parishes.

It may not be exactly the way the Church envisions parishes working, but it is the reality that where people have choices they take advantage of them.


All good responses… but, I think some of our views are skewed from the general population of regular Mass attendees.

I wonder if a common reason to stay in one parish or another is whether one feels “engaged”, either through participation or by the activities offered? I think in general, people in our area feel the Mass is pretty much the same from one parish to another.

Another big difference is whether or not they feel welcomed and/or treated well by fellow parishoners.

I’m not saying this is right thinking, it just demonstrates the reality of current experience.


As our parish priest said during his homily to the folks who came into the Church this Easter, “Look around you–all of these people are here for you–you are part of the family here,” or something to that effect. We need to be engaged with others, and that doesn’t happen when you feel unwelcome or are treated poorly by your fellow Christians.


I read this article and actually thought about starting a thread, so thanks OP.

I am searching for a parish. I have a plethora of choices, 25 just off the top of my head within a 10 mile radius of my house, most of which I have attended at one time or another.

Community, sense of belonging, and social and educational programs are all important.

For me, liturgy is the most important. This is the one time a week where I want my prayer time “set apart” from my usual routine. The “externals” (vestments, sacred vessels, ornamentation of the church, etc) don’t really mean much to me, but a good, solid homily that pushes me out of my confort zone or makes me think in a different way is always good, and I am a “say the black, do the red” kind of girl, there is no reason to mess with perfection!

Music would be number 2 on my list. I have a broad range of musical tastes, but I do think some things are more appropriate than others. I also think that it’s important that the music compliments the Mass rather than competes with it. I have, all to often, seen where “performance” is what music ministry has become, leaving the congregation to sit there and “enjoy the show”, instead of lifting their voices in praise.

What I am starting to understand is that I will never find the perfect parish, and that maybe I need to start looking at what is really important and what is not.

Would I rather go to a parish that does everything by the book, with perfect liturgies and music that has no other programs or outreach to the community, or would I rather have a parish that is “litugically sloppy” (no grave abuses, just the “but that’s how we’ve always done it” mentality) with a strong sense community, built on the common goal of bringing Christ out into the world.

The ideal would be a parish that is all of these things. If someone ever finds one, let me know so I can move there! :wink:

But in the end, my parish experience is what I make it, and that all depends on what I choose to focus on.





The reason I stay at my current parish is . . . because I am heavily involved in activities there.
*A reason I decided against continuing to attend a certain parish was . . .*a certain person in administration that alienated many people but had a big say in determining and carrying out everyday policies and was sort of “protected” by the pastor. And yes, it was that bad.
*I know I’ve found the right parish for me when . . .*there are people there who are happy to see me and my contributions are at least acknowledged a little - a simple thank you from the pastor goes a long way.


All the above. I’m lucky in that in NYC, I probably have at least 200 parishes within an hour of me. I get to be very picky. I go to a few different parishes depending on the time and whether I feel like EF, traditional OF, or modern OF. You might be wondering how I can enjoy all three. Professional musicians and the right setting can make any Mass enjoyable. Most parishes can’t pull it off.

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