Tuesday, August 11, 2020

A New Vision For Parish Ministry

The Vatican's Congregation for Clergy on July 20, issued an instruction on pastoral care in the church's mission of evangelization and offers guidance in parish reforms and restructuring. A pastor in the Eyes of the Believer column of the Catholic times gives the readers his understanding of the document.

 The key point is rediscovering the missionary calling of all believers, and at the same time to renovate the parish structure, and seeing that the parish is not limited to the boundaries. He thinks this decree in the current situation with the corona pandemic is significant in that it provides a direction for the parish community to go forward.

Cardinal Stella, prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, emphasized: "The parish should not only think about self-preservation but must know how to look beyond the boundaries to proclaim the Gospel."

The writer wonders whether parishes are not focused more on self-preservation than on evangelization. Cardinal Stella continues: “Maybe, until now, the parish has felt like a castle or palace to secure and protect… You have to remove the key, open the door, ventilate the interior air, and go outside. That's what the Pope has said many times, "outward dynamism".

The world we live in is changing too fast. The renowned sociologist Zygmunt Bauman said: all fields have become globalized and digitized, a society once based on a solid foundation becomes a liquid modern society, and everything becomes fluid. As mobility increases due to the development of communication and transportation, the existing small community meetings are weakened due to frequent movements—work, travel, hobbies, etc., rather than forming community and staying in one place for a long time.  With the rapid increase of migrants around the world due to refugees, workers, and international marriages, we have new pastoring among these groups

While feeling dizzy in the fast-changing world, he thinks the church is being tested to change to a more expansive vision of the parish mission in this coronavirus era. In particular, the new order announced by the Vatican document is very timely in that it provides an active opportunity to transform the parish.

Pope Francis once said that the church is like a field hospital. Now we should not stay inside the parish, but go outside the boundaries and testify to God's love. In other words, the parish minister must be 'missionary'. The dichotomy between pastoring and mission activity has to be overcome; stereotypes of pastor and missionary need to disappear.

In the mission-oriented Missionary Society of St. Columban, they are conducting activities for national reconciliation and unity called 'pastoral peace activities'. Mission agencies are now carrying out very naturally activities once considered pastoral; pastors also need to become missioners. The concept of pastoring needs to be expanded, and become compatible with mission.

In anxiety and fear, during the Corona19 era, each parish has a variety of difficulties. Mass has been reopened in all parishes, but there are many places where group activities have not returned. What would happen to the parish community if only Mass was allowed and all suspension of parish activity lasted for months? Only a few pastors would remain, and the rest would be pastors only in name. 

Perhaps the Corona19 era is preparing us for a future church. You have to decide whether the pastoral ministry is just for those in the parish community, or at this opportunity to go beyond the parish boundary and become a 'missionary community' that heals, shares and cares for the poor and suffering.


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