Becoming Missionary Parishes & Missionary People – The Challenge of Pope Francis

On Mondays 2nd and 9th March over 40 parishioners turned out to take part in the Diocesan Department for Formation’s presentation on Becoming Missionary Parishes.

The first evening was an excellent presentation by David Wells, starting with the question; “How shall we fill our church with new blood?”

Our primary proclamation should be: “Jesus loves you, he gave his life to save you and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you2 (EG 164)

Evangelisation should be not just something for a few people with special gifts for standing on soapboxes but should be an attitude we should all have. We should expect God to guide, accompany and prompt us, and should evaluate what we do in the parish as an expression of mission, rather than just talking about the finances, the buildings, the “furniture” rather than the Author. Pope Francis in EG3: “I invite all Christians to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus”.

There is a relationship between Joy and Mercy (Pope Francis again) and so a missionary parish should serve the poor in its neighbourhood. The evening ended with groups talking about possible action to be taken in the light of the evening’s presentation and the Dominic groups of the preceding weeks.

The second evening was led by John Mannix. Whereas last week we focussed on the efforts of the parish, this evening dealt with evangelisation on a personal level.

  1. We should always seek to demonstrate the love of God in any personal witness – it supersedes all rules and regulations.
  2. Generally speaking Witness precedes proclamation – people need to have some idea of who we are and how we relate before people will start to ask questions. We may mention for instance that we don’t eat meat on Fridays, or that we go to church, which may provoke questions – we need to seek opportunities as they arise.
  3. The Holy Spirit was there before the church and is the author of all that is good.  Talking about things we care about may lead to deeper conversations: God is at the heart of all that happens.
  4. We always need to be ready to explain the reason for our hope – to be signposts. We are not the finished product and people are not put off by our admitting we don’t have all the answers or understand it all. We need to create a safe space for conversation, using situations where there is already a relationship or a connection.
  5. Do I actually want to share the Gospel? Do we really think Christianity is good for people? Do we have a personal relationship with Jesus? Many good Christians – even priests sometimes do not. Have we been evangelised ourselves? For some people it is a Damascus Road event, but for many more there is no special experience but a gradual process of getting to know the Lord.

The evening concluded with reflection on what we might do differently.