This means parents experience their own peers and fellow lay Catholics "telling them about Jesus and about how they love the Lord."
The Boston archdiocese's approach emphasizes the belief that "radical hospitality" plays a major role in evangelization to reach those Catholics who rarely attend Mass or are not involved in church. Long-serving pastors estimate that at least five percent of Sunday massgoers are not known to them.
"The people, the 'lost', are coming to Mass, they're just not staying," Fr. Soper said. "Their experience there is not drawing them to stay."
The archdiocese's anonymous visitor program aims to help parishes improve to help draw these people back.
A pastor can request an anonymous visitor to attend a parish Mass and report their experience. Visitors evaluate the parish spirit in terms of whether the people were welcoming, how they treated disturbances like noisy children or cell phones, and whether the church was clean.
The visitor considers how the parish responds to newly registered parishioners and whether the parish thanks those who donate with checks.
Even the parish website, voice mail system and receptionist practices are examined for whether they are helpful for newcomers.
The visitor's initial report provides pastors with "early measureables" to plan improvements before a follow-up visitor repeats the examination.
The pastoral plan emphasizes a "huge amount of training" in areas like leadership, theology and the practices of new evangelization. Pastors, parochial vicars, deacons, parish councils and pastoral teams are among those who go through specialized training.
Part of the training involves the Pennsylvania-based Catholic Leadership Institute, which has done leadership training and consulting for more than 75 U.S. dioceses.
Dan Cellucci, the Catholic Leadership Institute's vice-president of learning and curriculum, said his organization trains leaders in smart goal-setting, planning and time management, interpersonal skills, how to run a meeting, and how to recruit administrators, staffers and volunteers.
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The consolidation of staff and some programs can create problems, he told CNA in an Aug. 15 interview.
"Just from a human resources standpoint, you're trying to cover a lot of ground with fewer people. That's always a challenge," Cellucci said.
"On the other hand, it really does force people to make sure that they do know what is important. You can be more responsible with resources and maybe do more and think about things in a different way by looking at a different model for administering."
Cellucci saw great promise in the archdiocese's plan, noting that "all the churches are staying open, maintaining the unique identity of each parish, but also coming to a collaborative spirit."
"They really understand that they are not doing this to constrict, to get smaller," he added. "They're doing this to move toward evangelization, to move toward outreach."
"They're keeping these parishes open because the idea is to go out and get more people to come to these parishes."