Parishes: Homes of Living Faith

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    Parishioners at St Michael’s Hurstville pray The Lord’s Prayer. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

    Our parishes remain the spiritual home for thousands of Sydney Catholics, Eucharistic communities in which Christ is encountered in Word and sacrament.

    As Pope Francis affirms, the parish is truly “a home in the midst of homes” where the bonds of faith and an evangelising mission unite the people of God within the body of Christ.

    Shaped by the insights of the ‘Parish 2020’ process, it is the intent of our Archdiocesan Mission Plan to uphold and celebrate the parish as both a gift and a project.

    The Parish as Pilgrims

    In our Catholic tradition the parish is not merely a territory or a building but a community of the Christian faithful who dwell beside others for whom they are a living sign and reality of the Gospel.

    From the second century, parishes – or paroikia in Greek – referred to local congregations of Christians who were “resident aliens” (not the intergalactic variety).
    In short, the parish was understood to be formed by sojourners or pilgrims in a foreign land.

    A woman receives ashes during Ash Wednesday Mass. Photo: CNS, Jeffrey Bruno

    There was something distinctive about its people who “have not here a lasting city, but seek the one that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14).

    The parish was understood to be a community ‘set apart’; in other words, it was ‘holy’ and sought to call others to this pilgrimage toward the eternal city. Contrary to the logic of the world, this city had to be believed to be seen.

    While the parish was to develop in a myriad of forms in subsequent centuries and continues to evolve today, it remains fundamentally a school of holiness and outpost for mission.
    The parish serves both discipleship and evangelisation as it seeks to transform the world in the image of the City of God.

    Baptised and Baptising

    Influential 20th Century theologian Henri de Lubac.

    To borrow from the thought of Cardinal Henri de Lubac, one of the most influential theologians of the 20th Century, the parish is both baptised and baptising, a ‘community of the called-together’ as well as the ‘divine calling together’, a community sanctified by the Holy Spirit while also sanctifying. It makes holy those who form it and seeks to reach those who do not yet know their home is with us.

    As Lent calls us to conversion and interior renewal, so too does it call us to rededicate ourselves to outreach and evangelisation – and never one without the other.
    As Pope Francis declares in his reflection on Christian living: “Holiness is experiencing, in union with Christ, the mysteries of his life. It consists in uniting ourselves to the Lord’s death and resurrection in a unique and personal way, constantly dying and rising anew with him.

    Holiness is experiencing, in union with Christ, the mysteries of his life. It consists in uniting ourselves to the Lord’s death and resurrection in a unique and personal way, constantly dying and rising anew with him.

    But it can also entail reproducing in our own lives various aspects of Jesus’ earthly life: his hidden life, his life in community, his closeness to the outcast, his poverty and other ways in which he showed his self-sacrificing love” (Gaudete et Exsultate 20). As we dedicate ourselves to Lenten practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, we open ourselves to becoming more deeply conformed to Christ and his mission to ‘seek out and save the lost’ (Luke 19:10).

    A Catholic community – especially parishes – are meant to radiate the light and warmth of God’s love. Photo: 123rf.com

    As heat radiates outward from the heart of a fire, might our Gospel outreach express our own flame of faith and echo our commitment to grow in holiness. As in the early days of the Church might the mission of our parishes continue to be the ‘radiation of holiness’ in the world.

    It is this commitment to evangelise by word and witness that our Archdiocesan Mission Plan is being designed to support.

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