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Pointing at the bulletin letter's date (link) at left will display it's title.
January 22, 2006
Reflection on the Meaning of Parish

       There has been a great deal of speculation, debate and even simple gossip as of late on the notion of parishes.  Many parishes in the diocese have been either closed, twined, or at times two parishes have come together to form one entity.  The result was either disappointment , sadness, anger, confusion or, for the more positive among us, there was sometimes hope for continued life.  It happens often enough that parishioners find themselves asking some very painful questions.  What have we done wrong?  Why are we being punished?  What could we have done to prevent this catastrophe?  It is in this light that we can probably gain from spending a few
minutes reflecting on our own notion of what a parish really is and perhaps focusing on different question.

       Like all organizations, a parish has several dimensions.  For our purpose, we will focus on three aspects of parish life.  This does not mean that a parish is limited to three aspects but it does mean that the three must be present to exist.  These three aspects, namely the physical, the emotional and the spiritual,  are the same as in every family or personal relationship.  The reason they are the same is because we are a family and this family is in a  communal relationship with God.  

       The physical dimension of parish exists only as a practical factor.  The parishes are subdivided into geographical sections.  These sections almost always take population into consideration somewhat like the political divisions for representation in Congress.  This explains the large number of parishes in larger cities.  Unfortunately, the churches are not as mobile as we are. When the population decides to shift to more rural areas, the churches are not able to move with them.  Today, people almost disregard the geographical barriers of churches and travel to a church they prefer.  What are they looking for?  Perhaps the next two dimensions will speak to
this problem.  

       The second dimension of parish is Emotional.  Rarely do you see parishioners without some degree of emotion for their parish.  Even those who rarely worship with their fellow parishioners are found expressing sadness when they fear the loss of their parish.   It is important to have emotion for the life of a parish since it is emotion that gives us the drive to go on.  Attachment to our friends, the place of sacramental life for our family, our home away from home.  If there is no emotion, one must wonder how life is possible or whether real life is actually present. 

       Lastly, the dimension that is most important is the Spiritual.  For a parish to exist at all and to be healthy, it must have a true spiritual life.  This can mean many things to many people but ultimately it means that parishioners must understand that their life in God, for God and through God is the most essential dimension of their life.  Arguments about where the church will be or how angry or sad we become when faced with loss all have their place but are secondary to the spiritual life of the parish.  If a parish has no depth, no love for one another, no compassion for their neighbor, no ability to forgive when they have been wronged, then there is no parish.  If a parish cannot focus on the needs of the most vulnerable, whether that be the elderly, the young, the immigrant family, the sick, then there is no parish. If a parish cannot live their Eucharistic celebration they are not a parish.  Today we must ask ourselves, Are we a parish?  Do we want to be a parish?  How committed are we to being spiritually vibrant ?   

Lorette P. Nault