Our Parish Community
For some, the parish is just the church building – nice backdrop to wedding and funerals. For others, it is where we go to Mass on Sunday – a sort of sacramental service station. But for most of us, the parish is the place where we experience God’s loving presence in a whole variety of ways. It is also a community of people in which we grow, our whole life long, in faith, hope and love. And it is the home base, from which we are sent out as disciples of Jesus and his Gospel into the world around us.
Pope John Paul once said that the parish is called to be –
“A welcoming family home, where those who have been baptised and confirmed become aware of forming the People of God.”
(Catechesis in our time, paragraph 67)
Of course it is easy to idealise parish life. The reality can seem quite different. The task of building up a community calls for patience, imagination and unbounded love. But we are called to make the parish alive. We are flesh-and-blood people, with a history to build upon and a vision to which we look forward. In this Directory, we have the opportunity to tell a little of our story and to open out a little of what that vision might be.
The parish family is a living community and a part of the Body and Blood of Christ. As a family it includes young and old, married and single. As a community, it includes people from a wide variety of social, racial and political backgrounds, people with special needs and difficulties, people who are active and people who are passive. And as a Body, it is composed of many members, with many qualities, yet all dependent on each other for the well-being of the whole. For as with the human body which is unity, although it has many parts – all the parts of the body, though many, still making up one single body- so it is with Christ. Now Christ’s body is yourselves, each of you with a part to play in the whole.
(1 Corinthians 12:12 & 27).
Saint Paul’s words mean that each and every one of us is important to the life of the parish. We have all received the one spirit of Christ in Baptism, but he brings us many gifts, inviting us to take on different forms of service, which complement each other for the good of all. It is only when we each live in continual interaction with others, with a lively sense of belonging and a deep appreciation of each other’s gift that we can begin to live out Saint Paul’s words. ...We are only a part of the body of Christ. Our parish is like a cell that belongs to a wider Church of the diocese.
And that diocese in turn is in communion with the wider, universal Church. Priests, representing the diocesan bishop, make that bond visible when they preside at the Eucharist. For priests and the people alike, the parish Eucharist is the sacramental bond, through which the parish is in full communion with the whole Church. Then, not only do we receive the Body of Christ, we become his Body.
Now we can see how family, community and communion are interconnected. In Baptism we become members of God’s family. At the Eucharist we become a community of faith. As the Body of Christ we become the living presence of Christ in the world around us. Our communion (with God and with each other) is made for sharing. It should flow outwards, from the Church building, into the world around us.
How do we carry out this mission of the Church?
We share the task among us. Priests and people together are involved in a continual process of formation-for-mission. Prayer, Scripture-study, celebrating the sacraments and reaching out to the needs of society, all have their part to play. The task embraces family life, religious education in schools, ongoing catechesis, ecumenical dialogue and the whole gamut of parish activities which are listed on the website.
How do YOU fit into all of this?
There is still a tendency to think that lay people are the Church to help priests. On the contrary, priests exist to help lay people to live their own unique vocations in the world. Very little good is achieved by ceremonies, however beautiful, or societies, however flourishing, if they are not directed towards encouraging people to reach their full maturity in their Christian vocation. To that end, your pastoral team – priest and catechetical coordinator – are dedicated to making this vision a reality.