This week I received in the mail a letter from Bishop Crosby regarding my newest appointment.
“In accordance with Canon 523 of the Code of Canon Law, by this letter I appoint you Parish Priest of St. Michael Parish in Oakville, Ontario.”
Curiously, I looked up canon 523 and the neighboring canons. Canons 528-530 offer a job description of a Pastor. I took these canons to prayer in anticipation of the new task entrusted to me.
Many of the duties were expected. The pastor is responsible for celebrating the Eucharist, baptism and the anointing of the sick. He must direct catechetical instruction of both adults and children. He must be attentive to the poor, the immigrant, the lonely.
A few interesting details stood out for me.
The Pastor has a duty to “strive to know the faithful entrusted to his care.” The canon specifically instructs him to “visit families” within his parish. The first priest I lived with as a seminarian loved to visit his parishioners and affectionately titles these visits “Meal Ministry.” While I’ve always enjoyed such visits I rarely thought of them as true “Ministry” and did not expect to find them encouraged in the Code of Canon law. However, a close reading of scripture finds that much of our Lord’s work is done while reclining at table (Luke 19:1-10; Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 2:13-17; Luke 11:37-54). These visits are not purely social events – the pastor is to share in his people’s “cares, anxieties and griefs” he is to “strengthen” them and “correct” them if necessary.
The Pastor is not merely responsible for the Baptized Catholics within his territory. He must ensure the Word of God is proclaimed to “all living in the parish,” including “those who have ceased the practice of their religion or do not profess the true faith.”
Reaching such a diverse audience would be an impossible task if the pastor were expected to do it alone. Canon law mentions not merely the collaboration of associate priests, but also the lay faithful. It is the particular job of the pastor to promote the proper participation of the lay faithful in the mission of the Church. Their collaboration is particularly mentioned in assisting with the proclamation of the Gospel to lapsed Catholics and unbelievers.
Reading such demanding expectations reminds me of the words of our Lord “The harvest is great, and the laborers are few. Pray for the Lord of the Harvest to send our laborers into the harvest.” Please pray for laborers – those in the field and those yet to come!
If publishing article online please attribute source Serviam Ministries with link to original article.