"The Sacramental Machine"

Our Lady of Soledad Parish has adapted the Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Church growth model but Catholicized it. In the December 21 2009 edition of America Magazine, in an article titled Parish Revival, Pastor Bruce Cecil describes his process. His goal was to stop being a “sacramental machine” for families who came for Baptism, First Communion or Marriage only to vanish once the sacrament was received. Meanwhile the “largest Catholic Church in Town” had become the nearby non-denominational Christian church where 40% of the members were former Catholics.

The critique of the megachurches is consistently that it is “church lite” or “church latte” and that people go for the entertainment, contemporary music, popular preaching, Starbucks coffee and video illustrated homilies. But the relevant question is everyone in the megachurch really very shallow in their faith.

Without weakening the Catholicity of the parish, Our Lady of Soledad introduced some of the methods of Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church in southern California. He produced a series of five mini retreats that serve as the “skeleton” to introduce the parishioners into the ministries and small groups that make up “Our Lady of Soledad.” The retreats cove what it means to be Catholic, serving in ministry, parish as community, evangelization, worship and sacraments, and practicing a mature Catholic faith. 50-60% of those completing the retreats go on to become active in some parish ministry.

The revolving door of the “sacrament machine” is not spinning quite so fast any longer.


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