The Comeback of the Parish
Recently, I noticed something that I have probably been doing for years. Whenever I meet a young Catholic who is on fire with their faith, I instinctively wonder what new movement/initiative/community they have grown up in or been influenced by. Someone will tell you, “oh, they go to Faith or Youth 2000 or CL”, “they’re in the Sion community”, “they’re in Opus Dei”… Think about it. How often have you met a young Catholic on fire with their faith who hasn’t had some kind of formation in one of the new movements?
Because of this, I remember having talked with Catholics in the past who thought that the parish had had its day. I think we might all be forgiven for thinking this. Perhaps the future of the Church is lots of overlapping new movements/communities/charisms… You choose which one you want to be formed by. If there is little fruit coming from our parishes, is the Holy Spirit allowing them to die?
But, over the last few years or so, I think we would all agree the Holy Spirit has been sweeping through the Church in a new, perhaps unexpected way. Pope Francis for one has not stopped talking about and referring to the parish since Evangelii Gaudium (see EG 25-33). Sherry Weddell’s Forming Intentional Disciples and Fr James Mallon’s Divine Renovation – which have both taken the Catholic, English-speaking world by storm – are both focussed primarily on the renewal of the parish.
I can’t wait for the day when we will meet someone who’s on fire with their faith, and we will say, “oh, she’s from St Richard’s Chichester” or “he’s from St Elizabeth’s Richmond”… I can’t wait for the day when people in our parish at St Elizabeth’s won’t have to travel outside the boundaries in order to find deep and satisfying formation, a community where they are uniquely known and loved, opportunities to use their gifts to the full. I can’t wait for the day when our parish as a sacramental service-station will have had its day.
Yesterday morning, my parish priest and I spent several hours hammering out a vision for the future of the parish, in preparation for sharing it with a team that’s going to be examining how we can improve our parish engagement. It’s still in its draft form at the moment, but I am so excited about this vision for the future, that I find it hard to wait. Bill Hybels defines vision as “a picture of the future that produces passion in you” and yep, right now, I am SO excited and passionate about our parish making a comeback!