Archbishop John Dew
A parish is the People of God continuing the work of Christ in a certain area and in conjunction with the whole world.
Parishioners of St Pius X Parish Titahi Bay wrote these words in 1968. I had great pleasure quoting these words at the parish’s Golden Jubilee Mass on Sunday 16 February as I joined St Pius X in a wonderful celebration of their 50 years.
I found it fascinating to read something of the history of the parish and the work of forming the new parish. One of the things the parishioners did, under the leadership of the first parish priest Fr Lou Leuthard was to consult a wide range of people. They set up a fact-finding committee to determine what this new parish could be.
What interested me as I read the story of the parish was that it was not just a consultation of parishioners – it certainly included parish organisations – but they also consulted ministers of other churches, school principals (including that of Mana College), district and Plunket nurses, the police, child welfare and probation officers, social workers and the school of social sciences at Victoria University.
Once this committee had finished meeting with all these people, they wrote a comprehensive report which identified urgent social and pastoral needs such as the need for marriage guidance and instruction, the need to address the loneliness of old people and the isolation of young mothers, the shortage of facilities for teenagers, the need for adult education.
The report gave special attention to the needs of new migrants, a transient population, and social issues such as the abuse of alcohol and criminal offending. There were of course financial concerns as well. It was this group that provided the definition of a parish.
They had certainly done their homework on the vision of church coming from the Second Vatican Council that had just finished in Rome.
Today as we establish new parishes and look to what our mission is, I believe we can learn a great lesson from the Titahi Bay vision of a parish conceived almost 50 years ago. They are words true to what the Second Vatican Council continues to ask of us. They are true to the vision Pope Francis has of a parish of today which is at the service of the world around us. There is no doubt that our parish communities are to be outward-looking communities, a source of support and beacons of hope for those who struggle with life.
Today the world is intrigued by Pope Francis, he challenges us to be a church which goes out to others and is not focused on itself.
Many people are comparing Pope Francis to Pope John XXIII (soon to be saint). ‘Good Pope John’ used to refer to parishes as ‘the village well’.
As we reflect on what our parishes are, can we really make them like a village well where people of all ages and all nationalities come to drink and be refreshed and nourished? Can they be fed and watered not just by the Word of God and the wonderful gift of the Eucharist, but by communities of love and support, people who encourage and enable and who look for ways to help each other to a renewed encounter with God’s love, which blossoms into an enriching friendship, (where) we are liberated from our narrowness and self-absorption
(Evangelli Gaudium #8).
Thank you to the parish of St Pius X, Titahi Bay, who gave us and have challenged us again with your definition of a parish.