Rich Heffern, National Catholic Reporter

January 3, 2022

The author of seven books on parish life, Fr. Thomas Sweetser is a familiar name to those involved in parish renewal. In his new book, Keeping the Covenant, Fr. Sweetser offers a practical workbook that deals with fundamental issues as well as specific challenges different churches face.

“Why have a parish at all?” asks Fr. Sweetser. “Why not enter into a covenant with God on your own and leave it at that? The parish is such a hassle; so much work and so little to show for it.”

The reason for a parish, he explains, is that it’s “the place where the expression of our deepest longings is made manifest in communal prayer and worship, in faith enrichment and development, in outreach to the poor and needy, in the call to just and moral behavior.” Creating that inspiring Christian community is the challenge for pastor, staff and lay leaders.

Fr. Sweetser’s practical guide is based on his 34 years of work with parishes around the country and also from his experience with the Parish Assessment and Renewal process offered through the Parish Evaluation Project. He focuses on a variety of parish dynamics, including mission, planning, decision-making, ideas related to stewardship and accountability.

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