WHERE ARE WE GOING?
Around this time of the year we would be getting ready for an Annual General Meeting. About two weeks ago, Vic Barra, the outgoing chairperson of the Parish Pastoral Council, gave a report of the last three years of the Council. This report, incidentally, goes to the Archbishop and is submitted every three years when the PPC ends its term of office. What transpired was a very comprehensive and deep insight into the life of the parish. One almost had the feeling that the foundations were laid for the next group of women and men to stand on and leave their mark. The two councils, the Parish Pastoral Council and the Parish Finance Council, had their combined workshop to prepare themselves for the work ahead.
The work can begin, however with a sense of continuity. There is, of course, for the two councils also the opportunity of a new beginning. In the first instance, they will attend to the “household” needs of the parish. In a sense, we know where we are coming from. That is more than sufficiently visible in reports, on the website and facebook, in the weekly newsletter and the countless events. But then, for a new beginning to be given space, the question must be asked: Where are we going?
May I share some thoughts, which will be general because I don’t believe that we can try to press life into a straight-jacket. The unfolding life and challenges of parish life will be God’s way of showing us where and how we must walk. That is the way we have been working – we plan forward on the one hand, and we respond, on the other hand, to the movements and needs of our time in the parish, the Archdiocese and society. That way we always moved forward and remained dynamic. However, we can and must look at certain factors, which we must take into account. I do believe that the time has come for a shift in the parish, not that it has not already occurred. The initiatives of the 5 H’s testify to this fact. It is the continuation of the shift we have formulated as “Love in Action”, which emphasises that we should be engaging in going out, in proclaiming or evangelising, in other words, in spreading the word of Jesus.
So, what are these general aspects of the fundamental shift I am referring to?
- The shift is the important step to begin with. It must be the growing mindset that the whole parish community carries the life of the parish. The parishioners are absolutely amazing when it comes to caring for the material needs. Also, we have so many volunteers in all areas of parish life who carry the flag for us. But it is always a case of “them doing it for us”. We have to expand the new mindset, which says, in very simple terms: “We are the parish. We are the people of God.” Now, while that sounds almost over-simplistic, it is really the most important thing. The spirit of the parish must come from a sense of belonging in Christ with the same purpose of building up his kingdom of love, truth and justice. It is the spirit of “United in Love” and “Love in Action”.
- This spirit must become visible in everything we do – in the way we take part in Holy Mass, with real joy and enthusiasm; in the willingness to help where help is needed; in the care for children and young people.
- This spirit must express itself in the participation in the prayer life of the parish in the Chapel of Adoration. The source of our blessings, unity and struggles for solutions is in this Chapel.
- This spirit must emerge in new initiatives in the parish. They are the signs of the work of the Holy Spirit among us. This happens when individuals or groups come forward with new ideas, which inspire, unite and drive the life of the parish. Such initiatives are particularly important in the fields of family life, children and youth.
- The parish community is as strong (or weak) as its families. Every family must see itself as the domestic Church, the universal Church in miniature, where the love of Jesus is practised.
- The shift is in the individual parishioner’s mind and heart to say: I love my parish. From there, everything else will follow.
The whole Church is waiting to be born in the hearts of its members. We pray that this may happen in our parish.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies, Bothasig
September 19, 2019