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Issue Date:  January 11, 2008

Helpful books for faith development

By Thomas P. Sweetser
Crossroad, 268 pages, $19.95

Reviewed by RICH HEFFERN

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.

By Gregory F. Augustine Pierce
Ave Maria Press, 125 pages, $10.95

This is a useful and inspiring little book, one lay Catholic’s meditation on the Mass and what it means to us. “What I love most about being Catholic is the Mass,” Gregory Pierce writes. “When I am aware of the Mass as a sending forth, I realize how powerful it is. Stick close to the Mass. Don’t let anyone or anything distract you from what it really is. Allow it to forgive you, to prepare you, to send you forth. Leave the church as if you had been shot out of a cannon, embrace your mission to make this a better world, and develop your own spirituality of work to sustain you.”

Mr. Pierce’s book discusses this spirituality of the workplace at length, focusing on specific disciplines that can be practiced on the job. The Mass is Never Ended shows how such a spirituality is a powerful tool for meaning and mission in lay Catholic life.

Rich Heffern is an NCR staff writer. His e-mail address is

National Catholic Reporter, January 11, 2008

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