The Catholic Leadership Institute (CLI) is providing parishes in the Philadelphia Archdiocese with free consulting support as they adjust to changing parish and liturgical life due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Founded in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia with headquarters in Malvern, CLI provides support to bishops, priest and lay leaders in parishes and dioceses across the United States and  Canada. Now it is lending more than 30 years of experience to pastors and parish leaders in line with Archbishop Perez’s initiative “Arise: Restoring Catholic Life after the Pandemic.”


In a webinar last month that was part of an Arise webinar series, Dan Cellucci, the institute’s CEO and a life-long resident of the Philadelphia region, introduced the offer to pastors, lay leaders and key parish volunteers throughout the archdiocese.

(View webinars and more information on the Arise initiative here.)

“We’re not going to tell you what to do, rather we’re going to … meet you where you are and try to take you where you want to go,” said Cellucci.

CLI’s goal is to “augment the what and support the how,” he explained.

Many parishes in the Philadelphia Archdiocese and throughout the country are implementing ideas and plans to adjust to changing aspects of parish life and handle specific challenges. CLI is gathering these ideas and best practices and making them available to Philadelphia parishes, as well as providing other support.

Cellucci said hearing about a great idea is different from implementing it, so CLI hopes to “help you facilitate the how, meaning your own action planning, specifically.”

A few areas in which CLI anticipates it can help, although certainly not all of the extensive list, includes strategizing engagement of millennial and generation Z volunteers, improving two-way communication and re-engaging parish and finance councils.


For more in-depth descriptions, see the May 13 webinar “Catholic Leadership Institute’s Parish Consultants Offer.” The webinar link is also available on the Arise page of the archdiocese’s website.

More than 30 parishes so far have enlisted the support of CLI. While the offer is first come, first serve, CLI is still accepting parishes into the program.

Parishes wishing to utilize this service can go to CLI’s website and after filling out a form with some questions about the needs of the parish, CLI will match the parish with a consultant. The consultant will then call the pastor to begin the process.

Cellucci notes that parishes are at different phases. If a pastor or parish staff wants to have a few phone calls with a consulant as a sounding board for ideas, CLI will do that. It also has a list of parish resources on its website, available to anyone with or without a parish consultant.

Holy Innocents Parish in the Juniata Park section of Philadelphia is working with a CLI consultant.

Father Thomas Higgins, the pastor along with 10 staff members participated in a conference call with their CLI consultant, who Father Higgins said gave perspective from other parishes in the country, as well as good suggestions to handle sanitation and social distancing.

He is “grateful for the help” from CLI, adding, “it’s been a long three months.”

Msgr. Michael McCormac, pastor of St. Frances Cabrini Parish in Fairless Hills, echoed that sentiment, saying CLI “always, always (has) upmost in their mind and heart … the church and the mission of the church (with) great respect for the priests and lay leaders in the parish.”

Most parishes throughout the Philadelphia Archdiocese resumed public Masses June 6-7, including Holy Innocents and St. Frances Cabrini.


“It’s been very difficult not having our parishioners here throughout the week — not coming to the rectory, not coming to daily Mass and certainly not coming for Sunday liturgy,” said Msgr. McCormac. “The very fact that we’re able now to gather this upcoming weekend, it’s a real blessing to everyone.”

Both Holy Innocents and St. Frances Cabrini will continue to livestream their Masses. The obligation to attend Mass on Sunday and holy days of obligation continues to be suspended until further notice, and those who are ill or at higher risk of complications from COVID-19 are encouraged to celebrate at home.

Cellucci reminded priests, parish leaders and volunteers to be gentle with themselves in these unprecedented circumstances.

“God in his infinite wisdom and providence chose us to be leaders in the church at this moment” Cellucci said, and then thanked the leaders for accepting the responsibility.

“Nothing about our parishes was really ever designed to operate in this environment except … the strength of our community and the strength of our faith.”

Father Thomas Higgins, pastor of Holy Innocents Parish in Philadelphia, advised parishioners at a May 24 holy hour that “Mass may look a little different” when public liturgies resume in the Philadelphia Archdiocese on the weekend of June 6-7. (Gina Christian)