People often ask why our parish lacks a particular ministry or apostolate: “Why doesn’t our parish have a bible study…..youth choir….prayer group…..parish picnic….etc.”
Sometimes the request may be one that is simply not a priority for the pastor, or else it has been tried and was not successful. Occasionally it may be something that is contrary to the mind of the Church or simply outside the scope of the parish. Nevertheless, I would say that three quarters of the time there are three simple answers to the question:
1) Lack of Resources – Our parish has only one meeting room that can accommodate more than 12 people. This means that only one group can meet at any given time. Many proposals for new groups or programs are unable to be accommodated – or can only be accommodated at inconvenient times. There are two solutions to this problem: raising funds to expand our meeting space or parishioners hosting meetings in their own homes.
2) Lack of Apostles – In order for any ministry or apostolate to be successful it requires dedicated leaders and assistants. Occasionally we will answer a request by stating “That sounds like a great idea! Would you like to be in charge of this and find a group of people to help you?” Frequently the proposal stops here. While many people are willing to assist – few are willing to take on the responsibility of a leadership role.
Some proposals require extra parish staff, such as a youth minister or choir director. In order to employ such individuals, parishioners must be willing to pay a just wage.
On the other hand, many of the most successful groups in our parish were begun entirely by the initiative of the lay faithful. They require little or no parish resources. They include groups as diverse as a boy’s club, a support network for Philipina nannys, a couple’s group to study papal documents on marriage and family, and a group of seniors who meet to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet.
3) Lack of Clergy – Some requests can only be fulfilled by a priest. An incessant request is for more Masses: to accommodate personal schedules or to commemorate an anniversary of a death. As priests we are called to be generous in making the sacraments available to the People of God. Yet we simply cannot satisfy every request. If we want the sacraments to be more available, we need more priests. This means fostering vocations in our families and in our parish. My pastor responded to one such request bluntly “send your son to the seminary – then you can have Mass whenever you want!”
Whenever we catch ourselves asking “Why doesn’t the parish….?” we should turn and ask ourselves “Why don’t I….?” Rather than pointing out to the pastor that something is missing – he likely already notices this – be part of the solution. Find ways in which you can help make these apostolates a reality!
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