A culture for communion
THE bishops have declared 2017 as the Year of the Parish. They want to highlight the ideal that the parish is a communion of communities, and culture plays a prominent role in pursuing that pastoral thrust—a culture for communion, that is.
The church leadership want the parishes to be more active and more inclusive, covering and serving not only as many individual parishioners as possible but also the different groups and communities that are in their territorial jurisdiction.
It is general knowledge that many of these groups and communities do not feel quite at home in the parishes where they are.
It’s either they do not feel the relevance of the parishes to their operations, or that the parishes themselves are not welcoming to them.
What is obvious in both cases is that there is lack of understanding among the personalities involved regarding how a parish should be, thus undermining the communion proper to it. As defined in our Catechism, “A parish is a definite community of the Christian faithful established on a stable basis within a particular church…
“The parish initiates the Christian people into the ordinary expression of the liturgical life: it gathers them together in this celebration; it teaches Christ’s saving doctrine; it practices the charity of the Lord in good works and brotherly love.” (2179)
For it to be faithful to its nature and purpose, the parish should be able to make all those in its territory feel at home with it.
All the parishioners, taken individually or in their different groupings, should be able to regard their parish as the beginning of their being faithful constituents of their diocese and then the universal Church.
For this ideal to take place, an appropriate culture of communion, animated by a proper spirit of communion, should be lived and continually developed. Though not exhaustively, the culture of communion will need the following characteristics:
It should be based on the spirit of Christ, which is that of charity; As such, it should be open-minded, eager to reach out to everybody, including those in the peripheries and those openly hostile to it; It should practice utmost humility and mercy; It should be respectful of the differences among people, in terms of temperament, charism and vocation, and know how to promote them; With creativity and versatility, it should know how to put together the different people and the different groupings and communities into one organic whole with a common goal; Of course, it should avoid any trace of divisiveness, like gossiping and backbiting, making undue comparisons, etc.; Instead, it should be able to motivate everyone to work together in solidarity for the common good of all; etc.
In all these, the parish leaders should have a clear idea of what is truly to be human and Christian. They should be the first ones to live by it consistently. Since the culture for communion is always a work in progress, they should also enliven their spirit of communion always!