Friday, February 22, 2013

Partnership Within the Church

Most pastoral workers, including priests, would like to see more cooperation among workers who have been entrusted to care for the parish community. Writing in a bulletin for priests, a pastor discusses the difficulties of activating the Gospel message of love and unity within the community setting.  But when this does become the common responsibility of all Christians, the pastor said, the attraction of Jesus' message is made visible for all to see.

Even though many pastoral workers have this ideal in mind and work diligently to achieve a viable community, knowing it was Jesus' intention in sending his disciples out  in pairs, we know, said the pastor, that working together with others is  difficult. It requires planning together, drawing up the steps to be taken, and going ahead together to promote the work. It's a painstaking process that often brings disharmony, and a reason many are tempted to do it alone; it's much easier and the results come more quickly--but at the same time, the community becomes less vital and less important. 

The difficulties of working together are easy to understand: the Korean family structure is patriarchal, shaped by the Confucian culture that influenced the society for hundreds of years. It's the reason many give for explaining why priests tend to push ahead with projects on their own, not knowing how to work well with others. Living alone, a priest does not find it easy to work with others, and the longer this is the case the more difficult it will be for him to leave the comfort of doing it alone and work with others.

Despite these difficulties, the pastor stresses the necessity for a priest to periodically discuss matters important to the community, to hear various opinions and then decide together how best to proceed. It is during this process, the pastor said, that we receive encouragement, face challenges and are able to acquire wisdom and experience.

There are many cases, however,  where the priests, assistants, religious, and laity are working together but do not find satisfaction nor are they happy in the results of their efforts. The pattern of working together is there but the expected satisfaction is missing. There is often an unfulfilled need for feeling more at ease when expressing opinions, especially when they don't agree with those of the priest, and a need to create a more enthusiastic and creative working environment where everyone feels like an equal participant.

The priest should be able to ask everyone he's working with--his assistant priest, the sister, the president of the pastoral council, all those involved with managing the community affairs--Are you happy working together? At first, they may not speak from the heart, but with time, knowing the sincerity of the question, they will have an honest answer to give. Jesus was always interested in what people expected from him. The pastor feels that another good question to ask those working in community is, What is it that you desire? The answers to both questions could help define the future direction of the parish community.