Church on the move: Quo Vadis?

From a document, "The sign we give: Steps towards Missionary Church" given to priests at a recent diocesan deanery meeting

The context is given in the opening quotes:

“Because of the one dignity flowing from baptism, each member of the lay faithful, together with ordained ministers and men and women religious, shares a responsibility for the Church’s mission.” (CFL 15)

We are convinced that the manner and style of relationships in the Church are part of the sign it gives, and for this reason we must develop patterns of collaborative ministry as a key feature of Church life to come. We wish to encourage all those women and men, who have been trying to implement and explore such new relationships, with all their difficulties and promises. (Bishops Confr.)

Looking at the image of the Post-Conciliar Church

Two of the most striking new emphases in all that the Council said about the Church are those which laid foundations for collaborative ministry; the emphasis on mission, and the recovery of laypeople’s full share in the life, holiness and mission of the Church.

On the Day Vat II ended, the Founder of Schoenstatt held a talk Rome [sic] about the new Image of the Church. Pilgrim Church, Fraternal Church, Soul of the World, Marian Modality of the Post-Conciliar Church.

The development of how we see Church summarised in the three words: Mysterium, Communio and Missio.

Pope Francis emphasises Culture of Encounter through Communion

New Understanding of Parish and Parish Leadership

A new understanding of what a parish is, and new possibilities for ministry and leadership at parish level have grown gradually in many areas. An increasing number of priests see their ministry more in terms of drawing out the gifts of all rather than doing all the work themselves. Religious sisters and brother have become more loosely inserted into parish ministry, often working full-time in parishes. In many dioceses, permanent deacons work alongside priests. Parish missions and programmes such as the Parish Project have helped parishes to generate a sense of shared responsibility for their life and purpose.

Leadership which build communion

Leadership in a Church of communion also needs to be seen in relational terms. It is not just a role or position, or a set of tasks. A leader who intends to express and build communion does propose plans and make decisions, and still holds ultimate responsibility, but includes people as far as possible in developing a vision, forming plans and making decisions. This requires a particular style of relating to people which is as consultative as possible.

Role of the Priest in the Parish

This is priesthood in which the “fundamentally relational dimension” (CDV 12) is decisive. As a servant of communion, he “builds up the unity of the Church community in the harmony of diverse vocations, charisms and services”. (PDV 16)

Equal terms and equal valuing

The theology of communion implies a radical and true equality among all those who share in that relationship (LG32) This equality is based on what it means to be human persons and the dignity and integrity which follow. It incorporates diversity of vocation, role and activity. It does not mean that everyone is the same, or must do the same work, but it does have implications for the relationships in which people work together and the ways in which varying roles and ministries and valued.

Working on equal terms, and indeed the whole of what collaborative ministry involves, does not in any way undermine the essential ministry of the priest. The identity of different vocations and gifts is not blurred by this way of working; on the contrary, they should emerge more distinctively.

The living of communion in the world is mission.

The living of communion in the world is mission.

Practice of Collaborative Ministry


Leadership Team

Pastoral Team

Shared Vision

Decision Making

Consensus—“I have been heard.”

Creating a Culture of Collaboration

Summary of practical steps towards collaborative ministry

At parish level: what priests and parish leaders can do:

—Develop a parish pastoral council or forum, or a pastoral planning group, and ensure that it has appropriate theological, spiritual and practical formation. Think out how to express its relationship with the wider parish community.

—Develop a parish ministries plan; encourage ministry groups such as the readers of the RCIA team, or bereavement ministers, to arrange their own formation and recruit new members; establish a policy about how long ministries are held for, and how they are recognised and celebrated. Invite the parish to make sure that those involved in ministries include as many different kinds of people as possible.

—Enable various groups within the parish to learn how to carry out effective consultation; discuss and try out different ways of decision-making in this groups and especially in parish pastoral councils. Encourage reflection on the best ways to make various decisions affecting the parish and agree the criteria to use.

—Engage as many people as possible in the parish in thinking about the future, including ways the parish can continue to grow if there is no resident priest; discuss ideas such as parish pastoral assistants and think through the practical and theological implications.

—Look for opportunities to reflect on the culture of the parish and identify some special events in which the parish experience of collaboration can be symbolised and celebrated[.]

One interesting proposal by a senior priest at the meeting was… a moratorium on all Masses for one year to be replaced by a “liturgy of the word”. Oh well!! Shows what’s going through their minds.

See also 'Leprosy in the Church: Why we need to pray the Rosary'

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