Saturday, July 23, 2011

Self-Starting Small Parish Communities

In Korea,  small area group meetings are part of the pastoral landscape. The Korean Catholic Church considers these meetings important and most of the parishes would have at least monthly meetings, with some parishes having weekly meetings. However, not all Catholics view them without some misgivings.

Writing in a pastoral research bulletin a laywomen begins her article with a question she received from a  woman who had just been baptized. "Do I have to go to the small group  meetings in the parish?  After the meetings, there is just gossiping and eating together." She was saying it was time-consuming and caused mental stress.

We know from the Scriptures that the early Christians met in homes for prayer and fellowship. But with more priests, dependence on the priest and parish societies became the norm. The early Korean Catholics used to meet in the mission stations with the catechist; they were  active in evangelizing, helping the poor and doing works of charity. They were a self-starting  community of  Christians, who served as a model for what we now call district and neighborhood  community meetings. 

In these meetings we listen, share and pray, read and discuss the Scriptures, and have them inform our thinking, reflecting on how we have lived. By sharing our thoughts on the Scriptures we are imperceptibly changed.  There is no teaching or judging during these meetings, for that only makes it uncomfortable for those that are sharing, and feelings can be hurt.  However, this sharing, the writer says, can develop into gossiping and mere socializing, and the reason for the meeting is often forgotten.

The men find it easier to meet in the evening but because of the fraternal nature of the meetings, and the drinking that takes place, the main reason for the meeting is sometimes forgotten. And at times those who can't attend because of work are often seen as less than good Catholics.  This is the way our writer sees the problems of some of these community Scripture-sharing meetings.

She would like us to attend these meetings in the same way we attend Mass, praising God, sharing our faith and, with prayer, growing in joy and hope. The leaders of these meetings should be humble intermediaries in the village communities, and despite the pitfalls she hopes they will continue to have an  influence on parish life and personal spiritual growth.