Friday, October 2, 2020
Feast of the Holy Guardian Angels
Imagine. Imagine a parish. Imagine a pastor who finds his ministry happy, holy and dynamic. Imagine, though, he is not alone. Imagine he is supported by other clergy who, together, share the joys and sorrows of the sacred priesthood along with the burdens and blessings of parish life. Imagine those priests work creatively and collaboratively in pursuing their apostolic ambitions with talented, motivated and faithful lay staff. Imagine that together they help form, serve and inspire all the people of the parish: the families; the young adults; the elderly; the poor; the sick. Imagine all these people – clergy and lay – are formed by the Holy Spirit into a community of missionary disciples. Imagine they then bring the person of Jesus Christ to a contemporary society in desperate need of his healing love. Imagine.
My dear brothers and sisters, just imagine what would happen if we actually did all that? I believe we’d completely transform our diocese. We would certainly introduce our family and friends to the deepest happiness, meaning and peace that this life can offer. We would also help them get to Heaven in the next. Our earthly existence has no greater purpose. And yet, often parishes lack the vision, structure, and leadership to realize this ideal.
That is why last year I drew together a group of both lay and clergy from across our ten-county diocese to help us chart a new way forward for our diocese. They are called the Realign Resources for Mission Committee. So far, they have prayed, they have surveyed, they have studied the data and here is what they have found:
In terms of priests: Often our priests are so consumed with the day-to-day challenges of running a parish that they have nothing left for creative missionary work; often our priests feel isolated or alone; often they are being asked to pastor a flock without the resources needed for truly transformative evangelization.
As regards parish staff: The Committee has found that often our parishes are eking by with only a few lay ministers who are overworked and underpaid. Hence, many important ministry areas do not have the necessary leadership and funding to evangelize and catechize successfully.
As regards the lay faithful: The Committee has found that our lay men and women have a great desire to grow in their spiritual lives and to evangelize. However, they often don’t feel intellectually equipped, or spiritually prepared or even practically supported by their parish to become missionary disciplines of Jesus Christ in the world. So where do we go from here?