In our denominationally divided society, we tend to think of pastoral activity as limited to the care of the faithful and thus to ignore the outreach that the parish ought to have toward all who live in the area. John Paul II offers a corrective in Redemptoris Missio, where he writes: "Especially in those areas where Christians are a minority, priests must be filled with special missionary zeal and commitment. The Lord entrusts to them not only the pastoral care of the Christian community, but also and above all the evangelization of those of their fellow citizens who do not belong to Christ's flock."Evangelii nuntiandi came out in 1976. Redemptoris missio in 1990, the Bishops' plan in 1992. How much has this attitude taken hold? Aren't most of our parishes still just oriented to spiritual consumers? Maintenance rather than mission?
Since Paul VI's great exhortation on Evangelization in the Modern World, its eems clear that all the activities of the parish should be centered on evangelization as the church's central mission. Evangelization, broadly defined, includes the proclamation of the gospel to those who are afar and the nurturing of believers in the faith, so that they may more effectively understand and practice it.
A vital church is one that looks outward, spreading the good news and inviting others to join. It is not enough to evangelize those who come into our buildings; as bearers of the gospel, we must move into the neighborhoods and workplaces to evangelize. The United States bishops, in their national plan for evangelization, have called upon parish leaders, especially pastors, to understand their ministry in terms of this plan. Many now speak of "evangelizing parishes." In the words of Patrick J. Brennan, "The parish or church that has lost this attitude of invitation and mission has become incestuous, closed in upon itself, or maintenance-oriented, concerned with maintaining the status quo." It is normally necessary, but hardly sufficient, to have a good RCIA program. Evangelization should be a dimension of every parish organization, including those dedicated to religious education, liturgy, youth, social justice, and the like. An evangelizing parish will have a vigorous program for keeping in contact with inactive and alienated parishioners and for making unchurched persons feel welcome.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Called to not be incestuous
Well, I'm through Book 1 of 15 (on the Novitiate reading list). Thought I'd share this bit from Avery Dulles' The Priestly Office: A Theological Reflection.