PEP Newsletter

Ideas For Your Parish

____________________________________________                                                                         November, 2020

The Pope’s Recent Encyclical

                The word “parish” never appears in Fratelli Tutti, the Pope’s lengthy commentary on social friendships and world fraternity.  But the word “community” does appear 24 times, half referring to it as a global reality and the other half stressing a more local emphasis.  Using these last 12 references as a guide, the encyclical does have much to offer to the parish situation.            

We Can Only Be Saved Together

            The pope makes mention of community when he touches upon the Covid-19 pandemic by saying, “Once more we realize that no one is saved alone, revealing once more the ineluctable and blessed awareness that we are part of one another, that we are brothers and sisters of one another.” (#32)  Even though people are viewing Mass at a distance and are deprived of parish-wide celebrations, they are still included as part of the parish community.  Many parishes are discovering creative ways to include people virtually and spread the feeling of “belonging” despite the obstacle of not being together physically.

Turning Aside To Help Another in Need

            Chapter Two is devoted to the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10.  “The parable eloquently presents,” Francis writes, “the basic decision we need to make in order to rebuild our wounded world.  In the face of so much pain and suffering, our only course is to imitate the Good Samaritan.  Any other decision would make us either one of the robbers or one of those who walked by without showing compassion for the sufferings of the man on the roadside.  The parable shows us how a community can be rebuilt by men and women who identify with the vulnerability of others.” (#67)  The stress and tension of the pandemic and struggles of the current election process have left many feeling vulnerable and unsupported.  Parish leaders and parishioner alike are called to set aside their own plans and agendas while showing compassion to those on the margins.  So many people are alone, unemployed, homeless, hungry, afraid and separated from others.  “Like the chance traveler in the parable,” the pope commented,” we need only have a pure and simple desire to be a people, a community, constant and tireless in the effort to include, integrate and lift up the fallen.” (#77)  Little acts of kindness and concern exercised by parish volunteers help bridge the gaps between the “haves” and the “have-nots.”

Thinking and Acting in Terms of Community

            Pope Francis calls us to act in solidarity with those who have been thought of as not worthy of ongoing care and attention.  As he put it, “Solidarity means much more than engaging in sporadic acts of generosity.  It means thinking and acting in terms of community.  It means that the lives of all are prior to the appropriation of goods by a few.” (#116)  It is, in other words, an ongoing state of consciousness that there is no one who lies outside the circle of a parish community.  One example mentioned in Chapter Four is the plight of the immigrant.  Francis suggests, “Our response to the arrival of migrating persons can be summarized by four words: welcome, protect, promote and integrate.” (#129)  He goes on to list 15 concrete actions that give meaning to these words, ending with “supporting the reuniting of families; and preparing local communities for the process of integration.”

            Fratelli Tutti means “Brothers and sisters all,” a quote from St. Francis of Assisi who was called by God to “build Me a Church.”  St. Francis thought he was to repair a building but eventually discovered he was to reform the faith community.  Pope Francis is asking the same from us today.  Form community and foster friendships with those unlike ourselves, those outside our circle.  No better place to begin than the local parish.