A priest from the neighboring diocese, in a newsletter, had some sad words about the partnership movement in the Catholic Church of Korea. In recent years we often hear: team ministry, partnership, common ministry, cooperative ministry, collaboration -- working together as sisters and brothers in the work of the Church, but not infrequently it means only sharing responsibility with other priests. The priest mentions a religious sister who said at the start of the collaborative ministry in her parish, the laypeople of the parish became 'cold rice'-- not needed. The writer of the article sees problems with the understanding of collaboration, team ministry, in the Korean Church.
Talking about collaborative efforts is a healthy step, but it should not only stop with the talk. Not understanding what is expected of a parish priest in partnership with the laypeople is a serious obstacle in moving ahead. If the priest sees the work as his exclusive responsibility he will not be planning to share this responsibility with the laypeople. If the pastor because of work , worries, and the loneliness of the work requires the help of other priests and considers the laypeople only as his object of concern, the whole movement is in for a great deal of trouble. The parish is not only his responsibility but the responsibility of the whole parish, and working only with other priests can distance himself from the laypeople.
Change has to be from the priests doing all the worrying to sharing the worry with the laypeople. If the idea of team ministry only includes other priests we are not getting any closer to where the whole community becomes responsible for the work.
What does the priest do if you take away what he thinks he was ordained to do? For many this may be a problem, but only if the idea of leadership is always being out in front. That type of leadership is at times needed, there is also the type of leadership which walks hand and hand with those led, and you have those who are leaders who lead from the rear. These leaders who lead from the rear are helping to form leaders and in this present world they may be the ones we need.
These are some of the problems we have working together in ministry. We have different meanings for what collaborative ministry entails. In Korea at present, there is a great deal of talk about priests working together, but if it just stops there we are no closer to true team ministry which should include all the disciples. That is the mission we all have been given at baptism. Working together with fellow priests is important; it should not stop there, however, but should include all the baptized in a common mission. The world needs leaders who can inspire and energize a great flock of fellow workers. The priest in partnership with his fellow disciples is one who can do that, and since the Catholic Church is the largest and oldest organization on the face of the earth once the whole community that is Church works together as one, it will be light and salt to the world.