By Sr Anastasia Reeves OP
I have recently been asking the wonderful salt-of-the-earth parishioners I meet in my service with the Parish Renewal Team: “Why are you part of this parish? After the COVID lockdowns, not everyone returned to parish life. Why are you here?”
They say that they couldn’t imagine life without the Eucharist, without community life, without having Mass as an anchor in their lives.
At our Parishes for Mission Days we ask people to reflect on the same questions: “Why are you here? Why are you part of this parish? Why are you Catholic?”
This is the critical question for us as the church, as parishes, and each of us as individual Catholics. If there isn’t a good reason, then why bother?
I think part of the answer arises from our daily experience: we all desire to be deeply happy. But to experience total, unending, perfect happiness, we need something total, perfect and unending in our lives.
That “something” can only be God—the infinite, unlimited, perfect One.
When we allow the Triune God, made known to us in Jesus, to be the centre of our lives, we live in communion with love and mercy itself. This is what I hear people at Parishes for Mission Days share time and again.
Then, when we experience this happiness and purpose, we can’t help but tell others about it. Christ’s command to go and make disciples becomes the natural thing to do.
A Parishes for Mission Day is an opportunity to recognise what we have received in Christ, to acknowledge our desire to share it, and to be equipped to do so.
It is not a one-stop solution for all our parishes’ challenges, but a stepping stone to bigger things.
Throughout 2023, the Parish Renewal Team has had the privilege of sharing this experience with over 100 people from 10 parishes.
Time and again parishioners have expressed something of a heartfelt encounter with Christ, a renewed desire to share their faith, and a greater sense of common purpose.
One of these good people recently wrote, “The most memorable moments were… [sharing with] others of our first encounter with Jesus. We don’t share our own testimonies with each other often enough, let alone with friends or family who are yet to believe.”
May we indeed grow in confidence to share our faith in Christ lovingly and humbly.