WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

Editorial: parish as vibrant mission

June 2014


Cecily McNeill

As I was preparing for my regular stint on the organ at St Anne’s, Newtown, last month, I felt a frisson of anticipation at the thought of being in the parish again and part of the liturgy.

I was reminded of how good the church is for exercising one’s talents and developing new skills. I have been playing the organ in Newtown for the past 15 years and have also undertaken a number of other tasks including, at one point, coordinating the leaders’ team and cleaning the toilets.

Parishes in both dioceses have been undergoing significant change as we deal with the reality of fewer priests and of the call of Vatican II to be a church of the laity.

Pope Francis emphasises in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium the church’s missionary vision.

‘Pastoral ministry in a missionary key seeks to abandon the complacent attitude that says: “We have always done it this way”. I invite everyone to be bold and creative in this task of rethinking goals, structures, style and methods of evangelisation in their respective communities … to apply [these] guidelines … generously and courageously, without inhibitions or fear …’ and not to do this alone but ‘to rely on each other in a wise and realistic pastoral discernment’ [EG#33].

So new parishes need to decide how they are to answer this call to be an outward-looking church, embracing all in the community. What is the parish vision? How does the parish bring about this Reign of God that Jesus teaches in the scriptures (cf Mt 5:1-12)?

What sort of leadership do they need? Is it someone who will lead them from the front or stand back and let the people discover their path together, more of a servant leadership?

Archbishop John Dew teaches a co-responsible church where people and priests share equal responsibility in the parishes. Is this possible when education and formation are at different stages with some priests and lay people still clinging to old, hierarchichal ways?

In my nearly 10 years as Wel-Com editor, I have heard from many readers of their appreciation of various aspects of the paper, fewer have sent brickbats – some with good reason, but others with a gripe coming from a lack of understanding of the way the church has grown, particularly in the 50 years since Vatican II.

Because Church is part of our culture, it is hard to accept the need to change. But change is part of the human condition. Cardinal Newman wrote ‘to grow is to change, to be perfect is to have changed often’. One of the hardest aspects of this change is the need to listen to others, even when we don’t agree with them or when they challenge us in other ways.

So let’s be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in the interests of vibrant, responsive, missionary parishes.