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Every family has at least a little bit of dysfunction. As soon as you read that, you probably thought of that one family member who just can’t seem to get along with the rest, or that one topic you never mention at the family Christmas party.

That’s alright. Healthy human relationships necessarily include a little conflict; a little dysfunction. But there are ways we can foster healthy, loving relationships within our families, and ways we can make them worse. Our new Families of Parishes will have the same growing pains. Just as we help our human families thrive or add to the dysfunction, there are ways to help our Families of Parishes become better together and there are actions to avoid.

Three acts you can do to help your Family of Parishes thrive:


Assuming the best about people is a Christian virtue. Assuming good intentions makes life better. For example, when someone cuts you off in traffic, you can assume that person is an unsafe jerk, feel a little road rage and be annoyed for the next few hours, or assume he or she either didn’t see you or has an emergency, then pray for their safety and continue your day with no lasting effects. That’s the power of assuming the best.

Assume the best about your new Family of Parishes. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Believe in the good. This is a critical element of healthy relationships and will help your Family of Parishes thrive in the upcoming months!


Past wounds poison future relationships – plain and simple. If you can’t forgive, you can’t heal, and if you can’t heal, you can’t be healthy.

Forgiveness isn’t easy. We can’t cover forgiveness in depth here, but there is one act that helps: find something to love about the person you need to forgive. Think about it. It’s easier to forgive your child than that bully in high school. Why? Because you love your child.

If you struggle to forgive a parish in your new Family of Parishes, find something to love about it. In fact, find something to love about each parish in your new Family of Parishes. Maybe it’s the beauty of their building, the strength of their school, or a wonderful event they host.


What’s the difference between being kind and being nice? Being kind is for the good of the other person, being nice is for yourself. Kindness requires a greater love for the other.

We can be “nice” for selfish motivations. It’s kind to subtly inform a person about the broccoli stuck in their teeth. It’s “nice” to ignore it and not say anything because that might be awkward, for them and for you, but it doesn’t save them from further embarrassment. Be kind to your new Family of Parishes.

And now, three things to avoid if you want your new Family of Parishes to thrive.


Keeping score is a relationship killer. It’s bad for marriages, friendships, working environments and parishes.

It is easy to fall into this unhealthy competition within your new Family of Parishes. We have more parishioners! We have more money! We have a bigger school! Our church is more beautiful! Our building needs less maintenance! Keeping score is never productive or positive. When you catch yourself – or someone else – entering into a score-keeping mentality, watch out! This is number one to avoid if you want a thriving Family of Parishes.


There is a subtle difference between being proud and bragging. Bragging is competitive and seeks to say, “I’m better than you because…”.

Ultimately, bragging is a sign of insecurity, a need to recognize your own good because you feel no one else will. Praying the Litany of Humility is a great tool to avoid bragging. As you join with your Family of Parishes, avoid bragging and seek a habit of humility.


Early in our marriage, my wife got one of my favorite recipes from my mother and made it for dinner. She asked what I thought and I made the mistake of recounting how my mom made it differently. I’ll bet you can guess how great that went over.

Never allow yourself to utter the words, “This is how we have always done it.” You can’t stop the changes that will come with forming your new Family of Parishes. Like the necessary changes that come with a new marriage or child, life will be different; there’s simply no getting around it. Holding onto the past doesn’t help you move into the bright and hopeful future God has planned for you.

Being open means you’re hopeful! Take God’s words from Jeremiah 29:11 to heart: “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you… plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.”

There is one more important way to help your Family of Parishes thrive: pray. Prayer is real, powerful and efficacious. Remember to pray for your new Family of Parishes and, through that prayer, trust that God’s will is being done!

This article appeared in the December 2021 edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.

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