How welcoming is your parish? Do you participate in your community? Is your parish teaching you how to share the story of Jesus?

These are among the questions an anonymous survey is asking parishioners to answer as Church leaders seek to better understand how Catholics see their parishes and themselves.

Called the Disciple Maker Index, or DMI, the survey will be available until March 23. To make the information as valuable as possible, leaders of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee hope every parish will participate.

According to Rich Harter, director of missionary planning and leadership, the survey was made available through a grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc., and is designed to assist dioceses and parishes in matching priests to parishes for priest placement.

“They did some focus groups with bishops and Church leaders throughout the country and created in this grant-funded initiative called, ‘Called for More,’” he said. “It has two main dimensions to it; the first would be the idea of helping priests grow in their leadership so part of Called for More is for the priests and key parish members to take a survey assessment tool. Through that, they get feedback and a leadership profile and from that, the leadership puts together a personal or leadership growth plan. Then the parish is connected with a coach mentor to help them initiate and follow through on a personal growth plan.”

The Pennsylvania-based Catholic Leadership Institute developed the 75-question survey. It is a tool to help parishes move beyond assumptions and better understand who is in their pews. Archdiocesan leaders expect that data collected from parishes across its 10 counties will provide a good landscape of the reality of the local Church.

This survey tool, created by the Catholic Leadership Institute, is designed to:

Allow parishioners to reflect upon their spiritual growth and discipleship;

Identify the ways in which the parish effectively supports that growth and look at opportunities to support that growth more in the future;

Provide valuable input to help pastors and parish leaders make decisions and plan effectively; and

Help pastors and parish leaders have a sense of where to focus their evangelization efforts.

Harter encourages all Catholics in the archdiocese to take the 10-15-minute survey, as it will provide valuable feedback to the parish and the archdiocese.

“The survey is a great benefit to your parish and it will help keep it growing and become more vibrant,” he said, adding, “It is available electronically on your computer or phone, as well as on paper, so it can be taken anytime throughout the month. The survey began Feb. 23 and runs through March 23.”

Harter stressed the importance of full participation among the parishes as it will provide a representative sample, not only for the individual parish, but the overall diocese and among parishes in the country. Catholic Leadership Institute is an association of lay faithful that supports clergy and lay leaders in the Church. Over the past six years, its DMI survey has been taken by an estimated 130,000 Catholics in 28 dioceses.

“More than 600 parishes have used this program put out by the Catholic Leadership Institute and they have a good-sized database from all of these surveys,” he said. “They have the ability and the parish leadership has the ability to benchmark their parish against others in their demographics and use it as a tool to compare with others. It makes a great comparative analysis. For example, if you looked at one parish and viewed their past 15 years of Mass attendance, the results would be startling, but if you compare them to other parishes in the neighborhood, city, rural areas or the country, you can see the overall trends. Benchmarking is another way to get some helpful information.”

The survey asks questions in four categories: attitudes and beliefs; relationship and satisfaction with the parish; frequency of Catholic practices; and respondent demographics. Not only is the survey anonymous, none of the information provided is attached to a respondent’s email.

The DMI requires limited effort for parishes as most of the work is done by the Catholic Leadership Institute. Results from the survey are expected in late spring or early summer.

You can take the survey by logging onto https://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/4099558/DMI/.