4th Sunday in Advent Dec 18, 2016: The Journey of Gospel Joy – Reflections from Fr Phil Part 11

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

pope-francis-tPart 11: Where My Church Goes
“The parish is the presence of the Church in a given territory, an environment for hearing God’s word, for growth in the Christian life, for dialogue, proclamation, charitable outreach, worship and celebration. In all its activities the parish encourages and trains its members to be evangelizers.” 

Above is the continuation of…..paragraph 28 of The Joy of the Gospel, in which Pope Francis speaks about the mission of parishes.

The general areas known as North Raleigh and also Millbrook, Neuse and Northeast Raleigh (at least according to Google maps!) is the place where St. Raphael parish is called to be “the presence of the Church in a given territory.” The mission of a Catholic parish anywhere in the world is to reach, evangelize and invite to discipleship of all those living in the parish. Not just the registered members, not just the Catholics: all those living in the territory of the parish.

I think if you were to ask most Catholics (including pastors like this one) where their parish is, their first response would be to give the address of the church building and other facilities. Fair enough – it’s a blessing to have facilities! But I really like a saying I heard recently that captures what the pope is reminding us of. It’s this: “My parish is not just where I go to church. My parish is where our church goes.” The general area of “North Raleigh” (to simplify) is the mission territory of St. Raphael. The members of St. Raphael living as missionary disciples in that mission territory is our parish. Notice the first word Francis uses to describe a parish is “presence.” The presence of God’s people in a given area, living out a mission for “hearing God’s word, for growth in the Christian life, for dialogue, proclamation, charitable outreach, worship and celebration.”

So, since the trip is a bit more involved than we might have originally thought, let’s keep asking the Lord for directions about how to go to our parish!

In prayer on the journey,
Fr. Phil Hurley, S.J.