A series of reflections for the parish on Pope Francis’ The Joy of the Gospel
Part 5: Got change?
Pope Francis calls the next section of The Joy of the Gospel “Pastoral Activity and Conversion.” Conversion. This can be both an exciting and a scary word. Synonyms for “conversion” include: change, transformation, metamorphosis and even transfiguration. In this section the pope is going to talk aboutconsidering changing and transforming the way we do pastoral activity. Here’s the first paragraph of the section (25):
I am aware that nowadays documents do not arouse the same interest as in the past and that they are quickly forgotten. Nevertheless, I want to emphasize that what I am trying to express here has a programmatic significance and important consequences. I hope that all communities will devote the necessary effort to advancing along the path of a pastoral and missionary conversion which cannot leave things as they presently are. “Mere administration” can no longer be enough. Throughout the world, let us be “permanently in a state of mission.” (Both of the quotations Pope Francis makes here are from the 2007 Aparecida Document of the Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Bishops, of which the pope was a member when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires.)
These words are enough set a pastor’s heart on fire with enthusiasm – and to make him tremble in his boots! Basically the pope is saying that he wants the ideas in The Joy of the Gospel to make a difference in the way all communities of faith do things – including parishes. Pope Francis is actually asking us as a parish to consider changing how we do things: to undergo a “conversion which cannot leave things as they presently are.” He then contrasts administration with mission. Administration of an organization is important, but it ba-sically maintains the status quo. An organization focused on mission is on the move – it’s ready to adapt and change to move from good to better.
In later parts of the document, Pope Francis will talk more about why we need to consider changing. Why we need to be open to new methods for new and changing times. Why we should seek to bear greater fruit in sharing the eternal truths of the gospel and in making real disciples of Jesus in his Church in our time. Hold on to your hats and stay with me for the ride on this journey of gospel joy!
Fr. Phil Hurley, S.J. Pastor