PEP Newsletter

Ideas For Your Parish


January, 2018

Does He Make A Difference?

            Over the past year I have interviewed a number of Catholics and former Catholics to find out what difference the election of Pope Francis has meant to them.  What I discovered was that they felt challenged to follow his example personally, but many had not found much help in doing this from their local parish.  One person said, “There is absolutely no evidence of any influence of Francis on our local parish, none.”  Others mentioned that their parish did refer to the pope by quoting him in homilies, putting articles about him in the bulletin, offering study groups on his writings but, as one person to put it, “My local church has not changed because of the pope.”  The words about Francis, in other words, had not translated into action.


A Pope Francis Parish

            What if a parish made a conscious effort to become a living model of what Francis has been trying to accomplish in the larger Church?  This might mean a change of identity for the parish community.  The pastor would have to be open and willing to try out a new focus in his pastoring.  Using the pope as his model, he might have to take some risks in calling the staff, leaders and community to a new way of being parish.  This would begin with learning more about this pope, what are his priorities, his understanding of mission, his use of resources.  This might entail a few staff members and leaders doing some research so they can become experts in what the pope is doing and saying, and then feeding this back to the pastor, leaders and parishioners as a whole. 


A Change of Focus

            As a result, whenever people come together for prayer or worship, for meetings or activities, they are reminded, following the pope’s example, that they are to look not only to the needs within the parish but to the needs of those “on the streets” – to the poor, marginalized, the forgotten, those alone or in pain.  The constant theme could be, “How does what we are doing here make a difference to those who need not only our prayers, but our care, love and personal attention as well?”  People need help to do this.  They require encouragement and direction to change their focus from the church to the streets outside.  A “Pope Francis Parish” would be a master at marketing this new emphasis of “not in here but out there.”  The homilies, bulletin, website, banners, formational materials would be filled with quotes from the pope.  Along with this new focus, there must be practical opportunities for connecting parishioners with those outside of their own comfort zone.  These offerings must be non-threatening and easy to join, but worthwhile enough so people feel they are making a difference in people’s lives.  Other options might include sharing the pulpit with churches of all faiths, taking trips to new sections of the city or surrounding area, inviting others to parish functions.  The key is reaching out as Pope Francis has modeled so effectively.  All who come know that this is a Pope Francis Parish.


Transparency and Collaboration

            Transparency means being up front in what you are trying to accomplish, that is, becoming the pope’s ambassadors on the local level.  It means asking for feedback when new approaches are tried, creating occasions for dialogue among those who don’t always agree, being willing to shift and change if new and better ways of operating are presented.  Collaboration means sharing the load, not trying to be the sole “owner” of this way of being parish, asking for help and offering training so everyone can do their small part in bringing about this new parish identity.