Parish: Wellspring of Renewal
THE theme chosen for 2017 by the Philippine Catholic Bishops focuses on the Parish as a Communion of Communities. During each of the nine “novena-years” the local Church focuses on a particular topic in preparation for “the five hundredth anniversary of the first coming and first receiving among our people of the Gospel of Christ Jesus and of His holy Church.”
In their pastoral letter the Bishops seek to link the parish with “ongoing new evangelization in the Philippines, which the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines already proclaimed in 1991.” To this renewed evangelization the Church brings “all the hopes and dreams of our people” for a truly “renewed Christian society, life and culture … based on the Gospel Beatitudes, suffused with Christian values of love and peace, of joy and hospitality, of patience and justice.” In addition, the Second Plenary Council resolved that the Church in our land would become truly “a Church of the poor!”
Pope Francis Speaks on Parishes. The Philippine Bishops recall that in Evangelii Gaudium Pope Francis insists that the parish “is not an outdated institution and can possess great flexibility still, depending on the openness and missionary creativity of the pastor and the community” (EG 28).
Pope Francis continues: “While certainly not the only institution which evangelizes, if the parish proves capable of self-renewal and constant adaptivity, it continues to be ‘the Church living in the midst of the homes of her sons and daughters.’ This presumes that it really is in contact with the homes and the lives of its people, and does not become a useless structure out of touch with people or a self-absorbed group made up of a chosen few” (EG 28).
“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…. It is a community of communities [2017 CBCP theme], a sanctuary where the thirsty come to drink in the midst of their journey, and a center of constant missionary outreach” (EG 28).
Church as a Living Community. As Church we live the “mystery of communion” in our families, basic ecclesial communities, parishes, and other Church organizations and structures. This communion, as the Philippine Bishops assert, derives “from the Trinity overflowing into humanity.” Thus, we share “a common faith journey together for the full unfolding of the Kingdom of God.”
“This communion, made possible for us because of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, always has a double dimension—a vertical communion with God and a horizontal communion with our brothers and sisters. The Church’s life of communion is constantly open to ecumenical and missionary action because this communion is always in a state of mission.”
Every local Church, Philippines included, is a portion of the Communion of Churches which is the Universal Church. We are a portion of the one Church of Christ. Thus, in every local Church “the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of Christ is truly present and active” (Christus Dominus 11). You and I are members of this “local-universal” Catholic Church!