Diving Deep: The Legacy Behind Your Parish

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The idea of helping your students learn about their parish is an outstanding one. It involves something that they have a connection with and most likely significant interest in. It is also something that could be a family project or activity, something that helps parents and other family members get involved in what their children are doing in the religious education/faith formation process.

In working on this project, it would be valuable to discover what one can about the patron saint or church name’s meaning as well as something about the parish’s history. I did a search of several churches on the Internet, and it was fascinating to discover: 

  • when the parish was established 
  • who the various pastors were over the years
  • what the significant events in the parish’s life were.

Some parishes do this on their websites; for others, there may be a parish directory with the information. It might be exciting to invite some of the elders of the parish to share their experience of the parish either by being “interviewed” or by coming to the class to speak.

The Internet, of course, is a way to discover information about the patron saint or the meaning of the parish name. There are all kinds of places to gather that information. As with anything on the Internet, it is essential to know something about the site itself. (For example, Googling “the accuracy of Wikipedia” gives several different views on that topic and helps one understand the strengths and weaknesses of Wikipedia).

I did a search of the name of my parish, St. Helen, and found her story on the New Advent site (www.newadvent.org), which lists The Catholic Encyclopedia as its source as well as Wikipedia. Both sources confirmed and questioned some of the New Advent information. 

Your textbook publisher most likely has some information on saints and suggested activities, which will be helpful in this process.

I strongly suggest involving families and perhaps even the whole parish by sharing what you are doing in the bulletin and on your parish website. The results could be published in both places once the research is finished.


Daniel Thomas served in catechetical leadership for more than 30 years and remains involved in the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership (NCCL). He and his wife, Eileen, are the parents of two adult sons.

This article was originally published in Catechist magazine, September 2016.


Image credit: JUHA REMES/ISTOCK 537708470

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