Tell Them That They Are Good

I had lunch with a priest friend of mine the other day. I needed to get out of the office and talk about work and life and the intersection of what the press says is happening in the Catholic Church and what is really happening in the central offices. Plus, I wanted to make sure my friend was okay.

Priests are being painted with a very broad brush these days and it would be easy to forget that there are many, many good priests and bishops who are true to their vows and holy examples to us all. Yes, the leadership of the church, by and large, has zero credibility. And yes, the pope needs to speak soon so people know he cares. But it is also true that there are factions of the church that long for the pope’s downfall and no amount of action will alleviate that. Those same people forget how the church rushed to canonize a pope who never met with victims and largely ignored what was going on all over the world. There is a lesson in there for all of us and my guess is that historians will judge that we are better off when we let decades go by before chanting, “sainthood now.”

But back to lunch. My friend and I were talking about good preaching and I was lamenting about how much I miss my pastor, Fr. John, the consummate preacher and teacher. Our parish is still living in the in-between as we await the naming of a new pastor, six months after losing Fr. John.

My friend was telling me that his homiletics professor told his class to “always remember to tell the people that they are good.” I liked that.

We circled back to his teacher’s comments towards the end of lunch and my friend remarked how important such a message is in trying times. Then he told the story of a lady coming up to him after Mass a few weeks ago and asked, “Father, when are you going to stop telling us that we are good?”

The question surprised him, and he wondered why people think they are bad or what in our world has people convinced that such good news is unbelievable.

“What did you say to her?” I asked.

Without hesitation, he told me his answer. “I will stop telling you that you are good when you believe me.”

Wise words from a good friend.

This week I will remember that I am good. I am loved. I am saved.

So are you.

See. There is good news in the world.



I heard once that most of the world’s conflicts are rooted in expectations that are unclear. This would explain why my children are hardly ever able to clean their rooms without very specific instructions. It’s even gotten to the point where, when asked to clean the basement, the children will often reply, “Do you mean neat or really neat?” Clear expectations can save a lot of time and frustration.

I thought of those endless conversations with my children the other day as some colleagues and I were brainstorming about expectations when it comes to our faith communities. We wanted to create a general list that answers the question, “What should be able to expect from my parish community?” Just to be fair, we also wanted to answer the question, “What should my parish expect from me?”

Our initial list is below. Feel free to use the comment section to add to the list. We plan to publish our list as part of a report we are working on as we reimagine faith formation in our diocese. Our hope is that these lists will help parishes become more welcoming and engaging.

What should I expect from my parish community?

  1. A welcoming, Catholic community, rooted in the Eucharist
  2. Liturgical experiences that are engaging
  3. Accompaniment through life’s joys and struggles, celebrations and heartbreak
  4. Opportunities to use my gifts and talents in service of the parish and wider community
  5. Opportunities for Reconciliation
  6. Parish leadership that is well formed for their ministry
  7. Parish staff that is friendly and knowledgeable
  8. Opportunities to pray for the needs of others and learn more about my faith
  9. Opportunities to support the community through prayer and tithing
  10. Regular, ongoing communication about the life of the parish

What should my parish expect from me?

  1. Regular, active participation in Sunday Mass
  2. Ongoing prayers for my parish leadership and community
  3. A willingness to get involved in the life of the parish
  4. A willingness to serve in ministry
  5. A willingness to learn more about my faith
  6. A willingness to share my faith with others
  7. A willingness to reach out to others, welcoming them to join our faith community
  8. A willingness to support the parish financially

What would you add or change?

May your week be blessed!


This Wednesday the Diocese of Bridgeport will give birth to The Leadership Institute. I get to be the midwife.

So much has changed in a year: new job, new house, new diocese, new parish, new friends, new challenges. It is a great blessing to be working in a diocese that values vision, direction, and creativity. Our leaders encourage people to look beyond the proverbial box and into what is possible for ministry, for the faithful, and for everything in between. We are coworkers in the Vineyard in every sense of the word.

My role as the founding director of the Institute means that I am the one who has been fortunate to bring the work that we have been able to do thus far to fruition. We are not as far as I would like, delayed by finding the right technology and making sure all the pieces of the puzzle fit. Still, it has been an amazing year (almost a year since I began) and the plans for what is next have me getting to work early and staying late. It is an exciting time to be a part of ministry here in Fairfield County.

On Wednesday night we will gather in prayer to launch the Institute. Shortly thereafter, learning modules will go online, workshops will be announced, and formation will commence. But first, we will reflect on Sirach 6, which encourages those who encounter the last half of the chapter to search for wisdom through patience, persistence, docility, and perseverance, knowing that we can search for wisdom all we want, but must remember that only God grants it.

We will also reflect on 1 Corinthians 15, one of my favorite Pauline passages. “…by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective…” Indeed, as I look back over all that has changed, all that endured before the changes happened, all those I left – eagerly and begrudgingly – all that I am and all that I have been – has made me who I am today.

Join me, please, in praying our official Institute prayer in thanksgiving for who we are as children of God, and for the great success of all the Institute hopes to accomplish.

God of Wisdom and Love,
You have called us to be missionary disciples of your Son,
and to use our gifts to build up His Body, the Church.
Empower us to follow the example of the twelve apostles
and to spread the Good News to the ends of the earth.

May we Encounter You in all our studies,
May our Formation be guided by Your Holy Spirit,
And may the Discipleship in which we share transform us
So that our ministry may renew the world
One person at a time.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

To learn more about the Institute, please visit