St. Megachurch Parish Community

by SDG

in The Church


You thought "megachurches" were a Protestant phenomenon, didn’t you? You were right, until now. In the attempt to find solutions to reported priest shortages, some dioceses have lifted an idea from their Protestant brethren and decided to form Catholic "megachurches."

"Catholic churches are joining their Protestant counterparts across the country in creating megachurches — where thousands, sometimes tens of thousands, of parishioners worship together. But unlike the Protestant churches that use high-profile, evangelistic campaigns to grow, dioceses say it is too few priests and too many worshippers that drives their expansion.

"While the number of worshippers per parish nationwide has grown by nearly 35 percent in almost three decades, the number of priests dropped 26 percent, said Mary Gautier with the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, which tracks U.S. Catholic Church growth patterns.


"Dioceses in the South and West — the hot spots for new jobs and suburban sprawl — are primarily the ones building larger parishes that are increasingly filled with Hispanic Catholics, many of whom are immigrants, Gautier said."


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BillyHW December 14, 2005 at 4:21 am

Don’t we already have a word for those? Hmmmmm, let me think…cathedr—something or other.

Tim J. December 14, 2005 at 6:27 am

I love the photo on this piece. SO appropriate and so indicative of the recent trends in church architecture.

Realist December 14, 2005 at 6:34 am

A better choice might be one global, Sunday Papal Mass broadcast on HDTV in Latin with subtitles to homes/churches from the Vatican with the Communion delivered by FedEx/UPS???? (with delayed timing to fit the global time zones).
Reconciliation blogs? Reconciliation by IM? Global General Absolution from the Vatican right before the global Mass? Hmmm, these innovations would possibly eliminate the need for priests save one?
Baptisms? The deacons do this already. And let there be a global Confirmation of our Faith once a year directly from the Sistine Chapel. Weekly wedding Mass by the Pope himself, sounds great. No need for Holy Orders since we would have only one priest/Pope. And let democracy rule with the laity picking the next Pope? Voting to be done via secure e-mail sites? Last Rites? With the global weekly/daily absolution no one will need it?
Think of the money we would save, money that could be used to aid the poor and homeless.
Missionaries? Hmmm, LMs to the rescue!!! “Armed” with HDTVs in/on their Cathmobiles!!!
Added pluses, no need for altar boys/altar girls, off-key choirs or married, ex-Anglican priests.

Tim J. December 14, 2005 at 6:42 am

Please don’t feed the Troll.

Puzzled December 14, 2005 at 7:20 am

And those few protestants doing this, lifted it from Amway.
I suppose that kind of distinction is too fine. So let us say This is what Catholics do these days.

Nick December 14, 2005 at 7:21 am

Megachurches are evil since they hinder pastoral duties. There is a letter or some other sort of instruction that requests that priests try to visit families once a year if I remember correctly. You can’t do that with 1000+ people in a church. As a non-Catholic I can’t get over not ordaining married men but I will admitt the real problem is the “Lavenders”.

tim +< December 14, 2005 at 7:28 am

I can relate to this post. I attend St Paul the Apostles in Chino Hills, Ca.
We have over 5000 registered parishioners and have 6 weekend Masses. We had to add an extra one on Sunday because the local Fire Marshall said we had too many attendees standing in the back during Mass. The Church holds 1800 seats.
This despite the fact there are three well attended parishes within a 5 mile radius.
Despite the mega-size appearance, we do have a very active parish with a wonderful youth group. We are truly Blessed.
tim +<><

Brian Day December 14, 2005 at 8:07 am

The cathedral comment is appropriate. My current parish church was built in 1967 in anticipation of the formation of the Diocese of Orange (splitting off from LA). It holds 1500 people. Unfortunately the See was established at a different parish which seats 400 – go figure.
I only skimmed the article, but another consideration is land cost, especially here in So Cal. Here in Orange County, the average price for a home is $600,000. So one large church complex will cost a lot less than several traditionally sized parishes.

Inocencio December 14, 2005 at 8:09 am

You point out how the megachurches hinder patoral duties. Can you imagine a married Catholic priest trying to raise his family and fulfill his pastoral duties?
I am a father of six children so far and I assist with the RCIA program in our parish and my wife teaches 3rd grade CCD. That is one night a week for each of us (CCD Tues. and RCIA Thurs) and it is almost overwhelming. I can not imagine trying to be the shepherd of so many souls and still be a good father.
Marcus Grodi of the Coming Home Network frequently has guest on his show who have converted to Catholicism and were pastor’s kids and they confirm that their fathers were not able to give themselves fully to either role.
With the way society is we need men who enter Holy Orders to be great witnesses by making a total commitment to Christ and His Bride, the Church.
As Christ said “”Not all men can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given.
For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it.”-Matt. 19:11-12

eweu December 14, 2005 at 8:31 am

5,000 parishioners and confession is still only offered 45 minutes once per week. Amazing. Have Catholics just stopped sinning in the past 40 years? Or are the communion lines really short?
Folks, the Eucharist is truly the source and summit of the life and mission of The Church. But the Eucharist isn’t going to do too much for a dead soul. Is five minutes a week (a month?) too much to ask to lift the awesome burden of sin from your shoulders? Be healed, then be nourished.
CCC 1385: “Anyone conscious of a grave sin must receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to communion.”

Nick December 14, 2005 at 8:33 am

Being a former minister I don’t buy that. Many men abandon thier children for whatever job they have. That’s a universal problem, not a problem of the priesthood. Also, while your quote from Matthew properly reminds us that some would abstain from marriage in order to serve God in a special way we have the equally good claims from 1 Tim 3 which make it clear that those in ordained roles could be married. These are the inspired instructions. Even (modern) tradition allows for married priests. Married priests (unlike homosexual priests which are granted far more freedom to operate and are engaging in evil behavior) are a matter of discipline not doctrine as far as I understand it.

CatholicDefender December 14, 2005 at 8:50 am

The megachurch concept is 100% anti Catholic. Parishes are by definition built around small communities where parishioners know each other and act as a support to each other.
Megachurches are often built around 4-5 parishes that merge. This dislocation creates anger and a sense of loss with most parishioners. Polls have shown as many as 85% of parishioners oppose these megachurches.
Many Catholics stop attending church because they feel like a resident alien in a barren round house structure, whereas the 100 year old parish they belonged to, got baptized and married in, with stained glass windows, a vestibule, a sanctuary and maybe a grotto and confessionals, was a place of great beauty, peace and comfort. Often it was within walking distance of their homes.
Most had a steeple and could hear the bells of the church each hour.
I live close enough to such a church and the bells of the church ring each hour until 8 p.m.
I can walk to the end of my block and view the steeple.
The church is a focal point. All of this was designed on purpose, to strengthen the faith, and create a sense of a close knit body of believers.
Likewise, the effort to tear down what has been created……………is well thought out.

Ignatian Spirit December 14, 2005 at 8:56 am

CatholicDefender nailed it.

Inocencio December 14, 2005 at 9:43 am

You are correct that it is a discipline and not a doctrine. Christ Himself points that it is to be received by those who can receive it. His Bride the Church has said it is a great gift to receive.
Even St. Paul recommends it “I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain single as I do.”-1 Cor 7:7-8
“I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried woman or girl is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.”-1 Cor 7:32-35
The Church in her wisdom follows the recommendation of Christ (which St. Paul echoes).
From the CCC:
1578 No one has a right to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders. Indeed no one claims this office for himself; he is called to it by God.69 Anyone who thinks he recognizes the signs of God’s call to the ordained ministry must humbly submit his desire to the authority of the Church, who has the responsibility and right to call someone to receive orders. Like every grace this sacrament can be received only as an unmerited gift.
1579 All the ordained ministers of the Latin Church, with the exception of permanent deacons, are normally chosen from among men of faith who live a celibate life and who intend to remain celibate “for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.”70 Called to consecrate themselves with undivided heart to the Lord and to “the affairs of the Lord,”71 they give themselves entirely to God and to men. Celibacy is a sign of this new life to the service of which the Church’s minister is consecrated; accepted with a joyous heart celibacy radiantly proclaims the Reign of God.72
1580 In the Eastern Churches a different discipline has been in force for many centuries: while bishops are chosen solely from among celibates, married men can be ordained as deacons and priests. This practice has long been considered legitimate; these priests exercise a fruitful ministry within their communities.73 Moreover, priestly celibacy is held in great honor in the Eastern Churches and many priests have freely chosen it for the sake of the Kingdom of God. In the East as in the West a man who has already received the sacrament of Holy Orders can no longer marry.

Realist December 14, 2005 at 10:37 am

Tim J,
To repeat, I am not a “troll” but a born Catholic of 64 years. My commentary above is the result of my concern for the current crisis we have with the priesthood, i.e. declining numbers, misconduct of the worst kind, obvious lack of talent and self-control, a bloated, irresponsible hierarchy and lawsuit settlements nearing a billion dollars.
Unfortunately the CC gives no guidance to these problems.
The replacement of megachurches and priests with the best technology has to offer is nothing more than an extension of outdoor Papal Masses where hundreds of thousands of Catholics view the Mass on large screen TV’s and receive Communion apparently concentrated well in advance of the Mass.
And yes I have made commentary about original sin and limbo on other threads. My concern is that we continue to relegate the souls of millions of unborn children, aborted or stillborn, to some shadow land. Hopefully B16 will give a dogmatic ruling about limbo soon even if it means qualifying other dogma like the Immaculate Conception and the Virgin Birth.

Tim J. December 14, 2005 at 10:48 am

I did not believe that anyone could make such suggestions with any real degree of seriousness.
I still don’t.
Being that I prefer to think the best of people, I assumed you offered them as a joke and were waiting for indignant howls of protest from some actual Catholics.
Making statements that are intentionally inflamatory in the combox qualifies as trolling.

Jim J December 14, 2005 at 11:21 am

Catholic “Megachurches” probably wouldn’t close up shop on Christmas day though.

Inocencio December 14, 2005 at 11:32 am

Some suggested reading from the CCC if anyone is interested.
fostering holy vocations 1656
sinners in the Church 827
scandal 2284-2287
heirarchy 771,874-887,1591-1593
St. John of the Cross pray for us! J+M+J

Jean December 14, 2005 at 11:32 am

My father informed me recently that my hometown parish is now the largest in the diocese. It has well over 750 families. The church, from the early ’60s, replaced a previous too-small structure. It has a K-8 school, multiple Masses, a thriving KofC hall, etc. If you arrive late (or on time on a busy day), you sit on the “old church” pews in the former choir loft – or stand and kneel in the back of church.
There is only one priest, but people adjust. For example, seven families held a dinner and invited him over.
But it’s not a megachurch by any means.

Realist December 14, 2005 at 1:16 pm

Tim J,
I was very serious in my suggestions of having global Papal Masses, Baptisms, Confirmation and Marriages.
The Apostles were “more preachers and teachers” than priests. They did not have global communications then. Had they, we would not have today’s priesthood in its current form, IMHO.

Steve December 14, 2005 at 1:20 pm

Megachurches are a Catholic tradition.
Yes, you heard me right.
My children were baptized in the parish of The Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Boston — “the Mission Church.” Back at its height, the parish had more than 14,000 parishioners. Plus a full theater (for the annual Passion Play), a gymnasium, a primary school, a high school, a convent, and a rectory that held a hundred Redemptorists. The goal was a self-sufficient Catholic world, and it succeeded admirably for nearly a century.

Kosh December 14, 2005 at 2:08 pm

Tim, while Realist’s comments are most definnetly incorrect, he usually is polite and I would classify him as a dissenter, not a troll.

Tim J. December 14, 2005 at 2:24 pm

I respectfully disagree, at least in relation to his first post on this thread.
It was such a funhouse-mirror vision of Catholicism that I couldn’t believe it was offered with a straight face.
I continue to pray for his conversion to the Christian faith.

Catholicdefender December 14, 2005 at 2:30 pm

The Basicilla in Boston, like St. Patrick’s in NYC, are the exception to what it being discussed here.
The Megachurch ‘cult’ is to combine 5 sometimes 6 suburban churches into one large church.
The intent is not to solve a non existent priest shortage, there is no such thing, it is to destroy the faith of as many people as possible, but just like ethnic cleansing of Catholic neighborhoods in places like Philadelphia, Detroit, chicago etc… used urban renewal as its cover story, so too the priest shortage ( spin) is used to ruin neighborhood parishes.

Brian Day December 14, 2005 at 3:23 pm

Would you then please address my earlier post on my local parish.
50-year old parish with the current church building built in 1967. 5,000+ registered families, ~ 10,000 worshippers at 2 Saturday vigil and 8 Sunday Masses. No consolidation here.
We are busting at the seams, but there isn’t enough money to expand. See my earlier post on land/housing costs. There are some older, smaller church parishes – but all of the new construction in our diocese is toward larger buildings. It is just an economic reality.

Gene Branaman December 14, 2005 at 4:37 pm

I always respect your posts, Kosh, but I have to disagree with you here. Realist is a troll. One need not be rude & impolite when one subverts a thread with one’s personal agenda with the sole purposes of inflaming other posters. Because that’s exactly what Realist does. He’s a “Catholic of 64 years” who knows the faith he wants to know but not the faith he says he professes & purposefully seeks, at every turn, to infest every thread with dissent.
But I’ve already spilt way too much ASCII on him & his tactics. I refuse to respond to his posts & will, like Tim J, continue to pray for his conversion.

Mike December 14, 2005 at 4:42 pm

I knew this one guy, he actually gave a sermon in front of 5,000 people, well, really that was just the men, and then… oh… never mind…

CatholicDefender December 14, 2005 at 5:14 pm

I know large churches were built in the 1960’s.
The fact 5 older buildings were not torn down to make way for this church does not deflect from the points I raised.
Another point that Catholics need to keep in mind with these new churches is how low they are.
This horizontal design is completely anti catholic as well.
It reduces the visible, the steeple which points to heaven with a one story rounded building.
The design of a church with a steeple pointing to the heavens is to remind the faithful of God.
It is a sign that this is the One True Church and all who enter are there to honor God.
That feeling is wiped away when you enter a round hoouse with a 9 foot ceiling.
The round house is a effort to make the vertical church, one in which authority comes from the Top,into a horizontal church, where we are all equals among many.

J December 14, 2005 at 5:51 pm

It seems that with some obvious exceptions, the “vertical” church was out of reach for most local parishes until the invention of the flying buttress (presumably in the 1100s).

StubbleSpark December 14, 2005 at 6:32 pm

My thoughts on the subject: (vomits).

Realist December 14, 2005 at 8:29 pm

Danke Schoen and lets hope 2006 brings us a limbo-free Church of any size to include virtual Churches as needed.

JD December 14, 2005 at 8:45 pm

I’m not sure what the answer is (no agenda on this one)but I wonder if Sacrosanctum Concilium would have anything to say on this subject, or buttress(haha) your claim.
Anyone know if the Constitution says anything about Church buildings?

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