14 parishes study survey results

Hopeful, timely and exciting.

That’s how representatives of three parishes described their feelings after meeting May 4 about the results of a survey – the Disciple Maker Index – intended to gauge parishioners’ spiritual growth and efforts by their pastor and others to promote that growth.

Those parishes – St. Vincent de Paul in Omaha, St. Charles Borromeo near Gretna and St. Gerald in Ralston – were among 14 parishes meeting in groups of three or more May 2-4 for their first look at results of the survey parishioners were invited to take in February and March.

More than 5,500 people participated in the surveys, about 23 percent of households in the 14 parishes, said Deacon Stephen Luna, director of pastoral planning.

Crunching the data will take time, with pastors and other parish leaders who attended the recent meetings sifting through the information. But in the next few months, they will talk about the results with their parishes, he said.

Generally, the survey developed by Pennsylvania-based Catholic Leadership Institute will help parishes understand strengths and challenges in their preaching, liturgies, faith development programs and other ways of encouraging people to understand and share their faith, Deacon Luna said. Parishes can compare and contrast results, sharing successes and finding new opportunities for growth, he said.

At the May 4 meeting, which brought about 21 people together at St. Gerald Church in Omaha, Father Jeffrey Loseke, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo, said the survey will help him understand how the parish can help people grow and share in their faith.

Father Daniel Kampschneider, pastor of St. Vincent de Paul, said one result of the survey could be inviting people to share their faith stories with the congregation. And that could lead to more open sharing in other settings, such as at work or in a grocery store, he said.

"This is about being open about our experience of God," he said. "We assume people have these experiences, but we don’t invite people to talk about them, to share them."

Conducting the surveys was one of several recommendations from listening sessions and other efforts to begin coordinated planning for St. Charles Borromeo and nine other parishes in Omaha and areas south and west of the city. That plan’s focus is forming disciples of Jesus Christ, and as need arises, creating schools, parishes and facilities to meet that goal.

Five other parishes expressed interest in conducting the surveys, and they were added to the mix, Deacon Luna said. Fifteen parishes had been involved in the survey, but one of the parishes involved in the west Omaha and suburbs study, St. Matthew the Evangelist Parish in Bellevue, decided against conducting the survey at this time, he said.

The survey also tracks well with the archdiocese’s pastoral vision and planning, summarized in the phrase: "One church, encountering Jesus, equipping disciples, living mercy," Deacon Luna said.

"People want to know their faith and how to defend their faith," Deacon Luna said. "There are opportunities for all of us."

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