2nd Sunday in Advent Dec 4, 2016: The Journey of Gospel Joy – Reflections from Fr Phil Part 9

A series of reflections for the parish on Pope Francis’ The Joy of the Gospel

pope-francis-tPart 9 – Do We Have a Flexible Parish?

“The parish is not an outdated institution; precisely because it possesses great flexibility, it can assume quite different contours depending on the openness and missionary creativity of the pastor and the community.”

In this and upcoming article I’d like to speak about some shorter portions of paragraph 28 of The Joy of the Gospel, where Pope Francis speaks about parishes in particular.

The pope begins above by defending parishes: they’re not “outdated institutions!” If he’s defending, there must be an accusation to defend against. Indeed, some people say they have a hard time finding a dynamic, vigorous, challenging, nourishing and joyful experience of faith in their parish. In many parts of the world, and to some extent in the U.S., some Catholics have turned to various church movements for that more dynamic help in their discipleship or to occasional experiences like Catholic conferences or to online or other resources. All of these things are good and can be a huge help, but the question remains: Why can’t one’s local parish provide the same dynamism to help us become disciples and mature in our walk with Jesus in his Church?

The pope’s answer? A parish can and should! A parish should be as creative in helping people dynamically live their faith as any movement or conference series. It all “depends on the openness and missionary creativity of the pastor and the community.”

Openness. Missionary creativity. Of the pastor and the community.

The pope is saying a parish can be very flexible, can adapt and risk trying new things to try to reach more people with the good news of Jesus and his Church. The stakes are high. Some people seek other means in the Catholic Church to feed their faith life if they don’t find it in their parish. Others, as we know, leave to go to other churches or leave behind faith altogether.

Are we open at St. Raphael to trying new things to address these current challenges? Do we have missionary creativity: do our creative juices get flowing trying to think of ways to reach beyond our own concerns, to be on mission, to reach others with the good news? And are we willing to change some ways we’ve gotten used to doing things to help reach people that aren’t being reached? These are probing questions for both this pastor and this community – it’s gonna take both to go where the Lord is leading us…

Let’s pray for these graces!

Fr. Phil Hurley, S.J.