Posted by: Thomas Richard | March 14, 2017

“Maintenance to Mission” – Title in Search of Reality

It is a title – do a Search for the term on computer! – a title of a book, a plan for evangelization, a parish goal, parish and diocesan project titles, conference speaker’s presentations, focus groups…. The best part of any plan, project or book using this term that I have seen remains, the title itself. I don’t know if any use of the title has ever met the potential power of the term itself! The term itself is overflowing with sorrowful importance because it convicts us of a far-too-usual grave fall – parishes and dioceses fallen into self-focused “maintenance mode.” And it is brimming over with hopeful significance because it points parishes and dioceses so simply to what ought to be driving us all: Christian mission!

The Archdiocese of Boston has on their website a one-page diagnostic instrument for parishes and dioceses, which helps to answer the question: Are we maintenance-driven, or mission-driven? ( LINK )  The diagnostic is simply these Maintenance or Mission indicators:

1. Involvement:
– Maintenance-driven: Activity! getting people involved in events, activities in parish.
– Mission-driven: Helping all people encounter Jesus and experience conversion through their involvement at the parish and outside.
2. Roles:
– Maintenance-driven: Forming individuals to take on parish leadership roles.
– Mission-driven: Forming individuals to discern their charisms and God-given vocations.
3. Commitment:
– Maintenance-driven: Getting parishioners to give more time, talent, and treasure to the parish.
– Mission-driven: Helping individuals commit their entire life to Jesus and live out that commitment daily.
4. Sustaining:
– Maintenance-driven: Sustaining the current parish structures & number of people.
– Mission-driven: Sustaining a culture of discipleship, nurturing and sustaining the work of conversion in individuals.
5. Catechesis:
– Maintenance-driven: Relying solely on catechesis as the means of transmitting the faith.
– Mission-driven: Transmitting the faith through pre-evangelization, initial proclamation and then catechesis in a systematic way.
6. Formation:
– Maintenance-driven: Providing formation for ministries exercised only for the parish.
– Mission-driven: Answering the outward call of the parish by providing formation for individuals to both take part in parish ministries and transform the secular world.
7. Communication:
– Maintenance-driven: Communicating in “insider” language.
– Mission-driven: Communicating in language both “insiders and outsiders” can understand.

Taken seriously, applied honestly, these indicators can begin a real, authentic renewal in a parish – a transformation toward a truly life-giving embrace of our Baptismal vows, our Confirmation empowerment, our Eucharistic communion, and the rightful living out of whatever life Christ has entrusted to each of us, in Him.

The mission-driven parish addresses what is essential, foundational. The maintenance-driven parish is preoccupied with what is on the surface, immediate. The squeaky wheels need grease. The Mass lasts too long. The parking is inadequate. The electric bills are too high. Contributions are not meeting expenses. Too few members show up for anything except food: “feed them and they will come.” The music is too loud, too protestant, too unknown, too Latin, too many stanzas, too fast, too slow, too much, too little. We need to be youth-friendly. We need to be family-friendly. We need to be senior-friendly. We need to be Hispanic-friendly. We need to be friendly. We need this; we need that; we need to be more Catholic; we need to update; we need… What do we need?

We need Christ! We need the life of Christ! We need Faith! We need to know, to love, to live the Catholic Faith! We need a life of prayer! We need the living, abiding, teaching and leading Holy Spirit. Go back to those Mission indicators, one at a time, and listen to what every parish and diocese needs! At the center, the heart of a parish must be Christ and His mission, His life. Or else, what are we? Why are we, if not because of Him? If not because of Him, and in Him, and toward Him, we are …. what? A private club with “members”? A business with “customers”? A habit? A hobby? A Judgment Day insurance policy? A drug for tranquilizing personal guilt? No, He went to the Cross for much more: to give life, and life abundantly. In Him we find life.


  1. I loved reading this entry. It seems to me that a parish would need a strong and holy priest in order to become a mission driven parish. So I will continue to pray for holy priests. At my age, I don’t have time to mess with anything that is not going to make saints. Thanks for sharing your wisdom and love for the Church with us!

  2. We are very lucky in Newcastle and Hexham’ diocese. A thriving youth village with a bishop and dean taking the Church out into the community. Being a Christian is not easy though I am learning I have time for everyone. Those who are vital to the Church and do not know it yet, those who sin deeply and with a soul waiting for the Spirit to answer their cries. I live and work among a big variety. I see only love, or when atrocities succeed with swelling fear, the space love so easily fills. If we accept His Faith above fear, we accept the work needed calling out clearly in our hearts. The rules already exist there.

  3. Dear Thomas,

    Thanks for this article — truly Christ is the One Necessary! How easy it is to be busy as Martha and anxious as she was BEFORE she truly heard Jesus’ words to her. How we need to sit as His feet with Mary, as Martha learned to do, and listen. By His Grace, may we learn to live and remain in Him, as we carry on His Mission in His Church.

    Thanks , Susan, for your reply. I join you in your prayer for our Pope, Bishops, Priests, Deacons and Seminarians that they may all be truly holy in their call to the ordained ministry. Theirs is an awesome responsibility to tend His flock.

    Thanks, David, I pray with you also for all the People of God — may we be holy in our call to build up the Body of Christ in love. May we seek the lost as Jesus did and serve Him in those who have yet to meet Him.

    Mary, Mother and Model of the Church, pray for us.

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