Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
May 18, 2009
Jesuit traces barriers to parish success
BY CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE
SAN ANTONIO — A “lingering clericalism that distracts and discourages laity in their God-given calling to serve” can hinder parishes’ efforts to evangelize, said a speaker at the meeting of the National Federation of Priests’ Councils.
Jesuit Father Allan Figueroa Deck, head of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church, also said parishes can be undermined by ideological extremes.
Deck said U.S. Catholics today are characterized by a “wild diversity.”
But, he added, “the key to a successful parish is precisely what it always was: creating the conditions whereby many diverse groups experience a real sense of belonging.”
In his April 29 talk, Deck cited obstacles to achieving a truly evangelizing Church community, including a lack of “regard for the role women play in the Church” and an “unhealthy polarization of thought” among some Catholics.
He cited concerns that some newly ordained priests “have developed a priestly identity that is not congenial to the collaborative, collegial way of working demanded by a Church whose mission and identity is to evangelize.”
“Neither so-called conservative nor progressive/liberal responses” can adequately address “the wide gamut of circumstances that characterize a multicultural, multigenerational Church,” he said.
“The diversity that characterizes our parishes today requires a rich diversity of responses that run the gamut from the traditional to the innovative.”
“The Catholic Church is fully able to hold in creative tension a bewildering range of cultural, language and liturgical preferences,” he said.
Those range “from the Latin extraordinary rite to the Life Teen Masses, from charismatic renewal devotees and Sister Faustina’s Divine Mercy disciples to Pax Christi social activists and the ecumenical spirituality of Taize practitioners, from Guadalupana associations to the Knights of Columbus.”
The challenge is to create hospitality that overcomes the tendency of many parishes “to close in on themselves and huddle together in homogeneous groups,” he said.
Deck advised pastors to encourage formation of small Christian communities in the parish that can motivate people to put faith into practice.
The optimal parish, he said, is one in which pastors and lay leaders work together, “rather than create the impression that ‘everyone is welcome as long as they do things the way the in-group likes them.’”
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