PEP Newsletter

Ideas For Your Parish            ________________________________________________

                                                   February, 2022 (20 Year Anniversary)

Moving Into Top Gear

            Christopher Lamb in the Dec. 18/25, 2021 issue of The Tablet wrote, “The Pope seems determined not to waste what he sees as a critical, epoch-shifting, kairos moment to reshape the Church for the twenty-first century.” (p.4).  Lamb went on to list the pope’s achievements during 2021:  

  • Opening the Synod process for the entire Church
  • Making a historic visit to Iraq
  • Giving the green light for an unprecedented corruption trial in the Vatican
  • Offering bold leadership on the migrants’ crisis, climate change and social justice
  • His intention to stay pope until his reforms are ‘irreversible’
  • His effort to uproot the entrenched culture of clericalism in the leadership
  • A trip to Cyrus and Greece at the end of 2021 

The Pope’s Desires for the Church

            Christopher Lamb’s article offers three characteristics of the Church close to the heart of Francis.  The first is a more fraternal Church.  “The pope told the priests and religious in Cyprus, ‘Walls do not and should not exist in the Catholic Church, for the Church is a common home, a place of relationships and of coexistence in diversity. . . .  It must become an open space in which all are welcome. . . .  The divesity of the whole shows the richness of unity.” 

            The second characteristic is humility.  “For Francis,” Lamb wrote, “a Church marked by humility does not assume it is the dominant force in the culture.  As the pope mentioned, ‘Do not forget that the Church throughout the world is a minority, but this does not mean being insignificant, but closer to the path loved by the Lord, which is that of littleness: . . . of meekness.’” 

            The third characteristic of the synodal Church is being prophetic.  “His consistent advocacy for refugees and migrants,” Lamb noted, “at a time when European governments are hardening in their attitudes makes him seem like a voice crying in the wilderness.  Francis is modeling a Church that stands alongside the marginalized and speaks truth to power.”           

Applications On the Local Level

            A parish could do worse than to model itself on fraternity, humility and prophesy.  Paraphrasing the pope, a parish should not have any walls separating the community but needs to foster the spirit of a common home as a haven of unity in the midst of a rich diversity.  Easy to say, hard to achieve.  Most parishioners in a typical Catholic parish are strangers to one another, and the fear of Covid is keeping individuals farther apart.  What they hunger for is a warm environment where all feel welcomed and cherished as a member of the parish family.

            Inviting people into the parish demands a practice of meekness and acceptance where all are valued, all are worthy.  No one is better than another, regardless of one’s status, function, age or length of membership.  The pastor, staff and key leaders are as much learners and listeners as they are proclaimers and initiators.  A spirit of equality and acceptance pervades all liturgies, activities, organizations and group interactions.

            Being a prophetic parish means speaking up for the voiceless and calling into question unfair practices.  It means speaking truth to privilege and favoritism.  This begins with discovering and challenging one’s own assumptions and ways of acting, as well as those of the parish taken as a whole.  It also means joining ranks with local groups and other faith communities so that, following the example of Pope Francis, the leadership and parishioners alike “stand alongside the marginalized” and find the courage to “speak truth to power.”