Wow, it’s been a year since I first arrived. Doesn’t seem that long to me, yet many positive, pivotal things have happened in this first year. Even so, I’ve made some mistakes, ruffled a few feathers, and dealt with some serious parish/personnel issues that needed immediate attention. In fact as I am writing this – I am attending to another one. All in all it was been a great year and we have made ardent strides in addressing the physical needs of the facility as well as assessing the spiritual ones and forming and planning projects and programs to address both.
This is my fifth assignment as a Pastor, and I am still learning. One thing I have learned is to not make any major changes in the first year of an assignment unless they are absolutely necessary. But, – Be Not Afraid – this is not a notification that big changes are in the mix since we’ve crossed the one year mark!
I am the ninth man assigned as Pastor here. A second thing I’ve learned through the years is that there will be a tenth and eleventh, and so on. We priests come and go. I know full well that although I have the helm at the moment – this is YOUR parish. I will do my best to take care of it, of you, the best I can – and when my time comes to leave – it will be as healthy and happy as can be. This, I promise you.
Although I think it is safe to say that Holy Spirit parish is certainly ‘unique’ – it is still a part of the 2000 year tradition we call the Catholic Church. And being a part of anything means being mutually accountable to the duties and responsibilities thereof. This is why, as I stand on the brink of a second year and am assessing and considering what needs to be done, what needs to remain (and what can go) for the continued growth and blessing of this parish – that I was delighted to find this writing from our Pope. I asked God’s guidance on what is best for the parish – and found what I sought. The IN BOLD Texts are my emphasis.
Pope Francis on the Mission of the Parish –
From… Evangelii Gaudium
‘The Parish is not an outdated institution; precisely because it possesses great flexibility, it can assume quite different contours depending on the openness and missionary creativity of the pastor and the community. While certainly not the only institution which evangelizes, if the parish proves capable of self-renewal and constant adaptivity, it continues to be “the Church living in the midst of the homes of her sons and daughters.” This presumes that it really is in contact with the homes and the lives of its people, and does not become a useless structure out of touch with people of a self-absorbed group made up of a chosen few. The parish is the presence of the Church in a given territory, an environment for hearing God’s word, for growth in the Christian life, for dialogue, proclamation, charitable outreach, worship and celebration. In all its activities the parish encourages and trains its members to be evangelizers. It is a community of communities, a sanctuary where the thirsty come to drink in the midst of their journey, and a center of constant missionary outreach. We must admit though, that the call to review and renew our parishes has not yet sufficed to bring them nearer to people, to make them environments of living communion and participation, and to make them completely mission-orientated.’
“We cannot forget that evangelization is first and foremost about preaching the Gospel to those who do not know Jesus Christ or who have always rejected him. Many of them are quietly seeking God, led by a yearning to see his face.”
“Go, make disciples.” (Matthew 28:19)
All this being said (and read) being open and welcome to all people is one thing, and it is a very good thing. But it HAS to be aimed at bringing them to Sacramental Union with Christ, through The Church. That is a primary reason we exist as a parish. Truly, Christ ate with sinners (and who among us has not sinned?) – but He didn’t leave them in their sin – He offered them Himself – some accepted, some declined, some even refused. Some went as far as to stand against Him. Let us always be the ones who ‘accept’ and welcome others to the same. For He alone is The Way, The Truth, and The Life, today and forevermore… the same.