Parishes for MISSION  #4

Witness Dialogue Dimensions

SVD Mission Secretariat - Rome - 6 September 2002

The 15th SVD General Chapter called for specific efforts to clarify and enhance the missionary profile of the parishes where we work. This occasional email bulletin shares ideas, opinions, resources and hopes about SVD ministry in parishes.

In this bulletin: 

1. Introduction - Core Ideas for a Missionary Parish

2. BOL - A Missionary Parish "Reaches Out"

3. ECU - "Missio Dei" in a Missionary Parish

4. Contribute to Parishes for MISSION



1. INTRODUCTION - Core Ideas  for a Missionary Parish

What are the core ideas that help to make a more missionary parish? That's an important and really basic question for those who work as missionaries in parishes. Serious discussion of this issue is certainly needed to come to a consensus about our missionary service in parishes.

This edition of
Parishes for MISSION reports on two meetings that were organized to allow SVD confreres to discuss their fundamental understanding of a missionary parish. The Bolivian Region's May assembly stressed the idea of outreach to all people. The meeting for parish ministers of the Ecuador Province explored the idea of "Missio Dei" in the parish context. 

What ideas do you think are most fundamental to sharpening the missionary profile of your parish?

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2. BOL - A Missionary Parish "Reaches Out"

From the 21st to the 23rd of May the members of the Bolivia Region gathered for an assembly dedicated to the theme, SVD Missionary Parish. In August, the regional superior, Krzysztof Bialasik, sent a report in which he emphasized the importance of parish ministry and the hopes that the confreres have for a sharpened missionary profile for our parishes.

"One of the more noticeable activities of our Bolivian Region is our pastoral service, which until now has not been sufficiently coordinated... And so, the organization and coordination of parish ministry has been chosen as a priority for our Region during this year. Our great hope is (in the words of our mission statement) 'that our SVD communities be places where our SVD identity can be shared, lived out and strengthened, as parts of the local church, committed to building up the Reign of God.'"

Dr. Jenaro Mercado Rojas presented a biblical based reflection entitled: "Parishes: Closing In or Opening Out?" He emphasized that a missionary parish is focused, not so much on occupying a particular territory, as on constantly reaching out to people.

Mons. Roger Aubry spoke on "Entering into the Life of a Parish," reflecting especially on specific questions related to parish ministry in Bolivia. On more than one occasion he underlined the need to make time to visit with the people instead of merely functioning in an office.

At one point the confreres were asked to indicate what they see as the fundamental ideas on which to base the missionary profile of a parish. Their answers are suggestive and intriguing:

The assembly was one important step in a longer process of reflection and reorientation of SVD parish ministry in Bolivia. Some of the steps in the process are as follows:

1. An effort to take stock of the Strengths and Opportunities, the Weaknesses and Threats that are evident in the various parishes.
2. A time of shared reflection on the ideal of a missionary parish (accomplished in part during the assembly).
3. Share the results of the assembly with the members of the parishes.
4. Together with the members of the parish, formulate the missionary objectives and strategies for each parish.
5. Ongoing evaluations and sharing of experiences with the members of the region.

In his summary of the May assembly, Krzysztof noted the importance of the assembly and the continuing dedicated service of the confreres working in parish ministry:

"The meeting itself was a good opportunity for us to get to know each other better so that we can support one another in our mission here in this country. Without any doubt, each of the confreres here is giving his best in serving others. On many occasions, our willingness to give of ourselves has been recognized and appreciated by the local church."

[You can contact Krzysztof Bialasik at svd-bol@mail.entelnet.bo.]

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3. ECU - "Missio Dei" in a Missionary Parish

From the 3rd to the 5th of June, in Quito, the seventh annual meeting was held for those confreres from the Ecuador Province that work in parishes.  Gregory Kosiorek, the provincial coordinator for SVD parish ministry, sends a few lines about the meeting: 

"Although the city itself welcomed us with cold and rain, the Casa del Centro Misionero made up for everything with a warm and brotherly welcome, especially that of Brandon Nguyen, our host. We came from almost all of the SVD parishes in the province to share our reflections about our pastoral service in the light of the theme for this year, Missio Dei. With the help of our missiologist, Joie Artienda, twenty-three of us participated with great enthusiasm, looking to discover a new dimension to our ministry in parishes.

Goal. We want our SVD parishes to go beyond the stereotypical image of a parish in order to find new ways that are conscious both of the life of the local church and of the mission that God is working out among the people. We keep in mind the importance of the last general chapter which proposed that our pastoral work be carried out as a form of dialogue that is at once profound and unconditional.

Foundation. We think that the foundation of our missionary church is the call to share in and help carry out God's mission. This perspective on mission invites us to look once again to our starting point, that is, God's saving plan, to be with humanity - here in this world.

Criteria and Attitudes. We need clear criteria and specific attitudes to do our part in mission. The principal criteria that we have recognized are: option for the poor, for persons, for the community, to be light and salt, to be prophetic, to find liberation in God's plan. We also need some specific attitudes, such as: availability, coherence, dialogue, respect for the process of others, determination, goodness and willingness to proclaim good news.

Evaluation of our activities. Toward the end of our meeting we spent some time trying to evaluate our parish activities in the light of the above ideas. We asked: of all that we are doing in our parishes - where is the Missio Dei most evident?  Our commitments need to be made in community!

Conclusions. At the end of our meeting we listened to some words about missionary parishes from our provincial, Alberto Escoto. He emphasized three themes evident in our reflections: 1 - movement, 2 - incarnation, 3 - faithfulness.

1. Movement - Some priests and other parish ministers still mostly wait for the people to come to the office. But what is more important is to go out to meet people. We have to stop thinking that everything revolves around the priest - we need to take the first move toward others. We need to treat persons as subjects and not as objects. 
2. Incarnation (The Word was made flesh) - Pastoral ministers need to "incarnate" themselves in the situation of the country.  We need to dedicate ourselves to an ever more complete incarnation.
3. Faithfulness (I and the Father are one) - It makes no sense to think that we can participate in God's mission without remaining faithful to God.  Faithfulness implies union and witness, and so we must cultivate our relationship to God in prayer. In the end, we need to be among the first to give witness through our lives.

Celebration. We closed our gathering with a eucharist to celebrate the 25th anniversary of vows for our provincial and the 25 years of priestly service of Eloy Bartolomé. 

The future. For next year we propose to make a serious evaluation of the past seven years of meetings regarding our parish ministry. In fact, in our province there are more members working in parishes than in any other activity. 

Gregory concluded with some personal observations: 

"Personally, I think that these meetings are really useful, especially in these changing times in which we live. In today's world, many of yesterday's sure answers no longer make sense, and we need to look for renewed ways to live out our missionary vocation."

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4. Contribute to Parishes for MISSION

Parishes for MISSION is meant primarily for SVD confreres working in parish ministry. It is also sent to SVD provincial and regional superiors and to others interested in the missionary profile of parishes. If you know of others who would like to receive this bulletin, please send a message to the editor, Tom Ascheman, at svd.missec@verbodivino.it.

If you would like to contribute your ideas for publication you are most welcome to do so. At present the bulletin is produced in English and Spanish. If you would like to see another language version of this bulletin or if you could help with translation please send a message to the editor. 

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To subscribe and to send notices for publication please contact:

Tom Ascheman SVD
Generalate Mission Secretary
svd.missec@verbodivino.it