Wednesday, 6 February 2008

A parish which is not missionary has no future.

This article was recently published by Zenit; here a priest of the Emmanuel Community speaks frankly about parish life today. I was so pleased to read this for what he says parrallels my own experience. However, I think that even though what he says might be the experience of many priests and people, they are still not ready to start engaging with the New Evangelisation. And as a consequence we see parishes visibly dying, and priests and people living like shadows. What is good is that this Movement is responding in a good way to the situation of parishes and is waking the Church up with regard to parishes.
If a Parish Priest in a parish today wishes to have souls to care for, he needs to go looking for them, says the leader of the priests of the Emmanuel Community. Father Yves le Saux, general delegate for ordained ministry of the Emmanuel Community, spoke during a conference under way in Rome on "The Parish and the New Evangelization. "The congress is organized by the Emmanuel Community and the Pontifical Institute Redemptor Hominis. Priests in the Emmanuel Community are diocesan priests under the authority of their respective bishops who allow them to be members of the group.
Is there a future for parishes? Today, in different regions of the world, some are wondering about the future of parishes. I think that the parish is and will continue being the principal and privileged space of the life of the Church. By nature, the parish is the place where the Christian community meets. It has the vocation of welcoming all Christians around the Eucharist, around Christ, also through the ministry of the parish priest. The parish is the place where every Christian, every baptized, independently of his sensitivity, his personal charism, can live and be integrated into ecclesial life.That said, the model of the parish in which the pastor is there, in the midst of its community, available for all the people to go to, is no longer sufficient today. If a pastor wishes to still have sheep, he should go to find them. Today, the parish should be understood as "mission territory." It seems to me that perhaps the term "mission territory" has to be added to the term parish so that the priest and Christians who live in a determined place can enter into a dynamic of announcing the Gospel. Said in another way, does the parish have a future? Yes, on the condition that it is missionary.
What advice could you give to a pastor who has a deep consciousness of the evangelizing role of his parish but who feels alone facing this challenge? It is clear that the responsibility for the mission should not fall on only one man. I think that today the parochial function should not be entrusted to only one man, but to a team of priests who have a demanding community life and who are prepared for working together in the mission.But this is insufficient. Today a parish priest has to be surrounded by the baptized who share with him the same missionary drive. The priest who feels alone should, in principle, have the objective of surrounding himself with people who not only evangelize with him, but who also pray with him, reflect with him, have a Christian life with him. That being said, I think that there is also a responsibility of the bishops themselves, who should be on guard to not leave a priest alone. A man alone, even with a lot of help and talents, remains limited in his fruitfulness. Today the world needs witnesses, not only individuals, but also groups. This restlessness corresponds not just to the priest but also to the baptized, who should accompany their priest and also their bishops, who should be preoccupied about not leaving their priests alone.

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