|Unleashing the Laity (or, how to revive a Catholic parish)|
|Written by Sherry|
|Thursday, 22 March 2007 18:49|
In poking about the website of St. Clement Eucharistic Shrine in Boston (at http://stclementshrine.org) I found this fascinating article on Godspy about how two parishes, one a fairly typical suburban parish, one in the heart of Boston's Back Bay on the verge of being closed, were revived and turned into what I think could be fairly described as houses of formation for lay apostles.
St. Andrew's and St. Clement were renewed by putting worship and catechesis first. Fr. Peter minimized the "happy get-togethers," parish dinners and the like, and took his parish leadership on retreats instead. By giving lay leaders opportunities to talk about their faith, he inspired them to claim that faith as their own and prepared them to lead others in doing the same.
St. Andrews and St. Clement were renewed by putting worship and catechesis first. I asked Fr. Peter how difficult this task was. I have been in so many Catholic groups where, when a theological question was raised, all eyes turned to the priest. The clericalism of the past has created an atmosphere in Catholic culture in which only the priest is expected to address such questions.
He said that asking lay Catholics to talk about their faith can be awkward at first. They don't always have the necessary theological vocabulary, so they found themselves stumbling to explain things, the way most of us do when we take our cars to a mechanic. "That thing there," he says, mimicking such an encounter, "you turn it on and it makes a funny noise." Once people become comfortable, though, "they find themselves speaking the language; they start to talk from the heart and it's a great thing to see."
We talked about why so many pastors seem afraid of entrusting teaching responsibilities—particularly adult catechesis and ongoing spiritual formation—to lay leadership. Fr. Peter didn't want to generalize, but he attributed the problem to a lingering clericalism—"Don't talk about the faith," he said, spoofing these attitudes, "just shut up and listen, and I'll tell you what the faith is."
Then he introduced a truly radical and hopeful notion: he thinks that the religious vocation crisis in the Western European Church today is being used by the Holy Spirit to correct the clericalism of the past. The clergy and the laity must now join in a true evangelistic partnership in which the clergy and religious focus on feeding the people and the people bring the world to Christ. "God's running the Church, hang in there," he told me, gently chiding my pessimism. "God's doing a good job, He's directing the Church to where it's going."
Read the whole thing here: http://www.godspy.com/reviews/Feeding-the-One-Billion-Reviving-a-Catholic-Parish-by-Harold-Fickett.cfm