Parishes for MISSION  #7

Witness Dialogue Dimensions

SVD Mission Secretariat - Rome - 10 June 2005

In this bulletin: 

1. Introduction - BACK ONLINE

2. Herberger - MISSIONARY PARISH PRIEST IN THE CARIBBEAN 

3. Cattáneo - PARISH BIBLE APOSTOLATE IN MINDANAO

4. CONTRIBUTE TO Parishes for MISSION

 


1. Introduction - BACK ONLINE

Beginning in August 2001, the email bulletin Parishes for MISSION began to appear from time to time. By the end of November 2004, six issues had been published. Now after a break of a year and a half, this bulletin appears once again. The 15th SVD General Chapter called for specific efforts to clarify and enhance the missionary profile of the parishes where we work. To help encourage those efforts, this occasional email bulletin shares ideas, opinions, resources and hopes about SVD ministry in parishes.

The previous issues of Parishes for Mission have been posted on the SVD website at www.svdcuria.org .

Back to TOP

¤º°'°º¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º°'°º¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º°'°º¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º°'°º¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º°'°º¤

2. Herberger - MISSIONARY PARISH PRIEST IN THE CARIBBEAN 

The SVD presence in the Caribbean dates back to the 1950's when our confrere Joseph Bowers was consecrated Bishop for the newly erected diocese of St. John's-Basseterre.  At present there are 16 SVDs assigned to the Caribbean district number and they are working in five different countries.

Ed Herberger, who is currently working on Anguilla, recently published a short article for the Caribbean Newsletter. In it he reflects on the tension between pastorally serving those who are the active members of a parish (which most of the time is a fulltime job) and recognizing that as "missionary parish priests" we especially should be giving more time to the people on the periphery (those who aren't practicing). In an email to me he commented: "I was just wondering whether that is a phenomenon in other parts of the Society and as you travel around the Society are there places that are addressing this issue successfully. The problem is that ministering to the practicing community is a fulltime job."

I think that this issue is a core challenge for those looking to sharpen the missionary profile of our parish ministry. It surely is not only a concern for the Caribbean.

For twenty years I have worked in various parishes in the Caribbean as a parish priest. Gradually I began to realize that as a Divine Word Missionary my call is to be more than a just parish priest. My call is to be a missionary parish priest. Here is my story.

The context. The past eight years I have been the pastor of St. Gerard's Parish on the small island of Anguilla. It is a British Overseas Territory with a population of slightly over 10,000 people, mostly Protestant. The Catholic population is about 6% (654 according to the 2001 census). Many have come and are still coming from the more Catholic islands as immigrants, seeking work in the tourist and construction industry. A small number of these immigrants come regularly to Sunday Eucharist, but for various reasons, the majority are not church related though they consider themselves Catholic and have their children baptized Catholic.

The active members number about 200, made up of: (1) local Anguillians, (2) people from other islands who have been here for a considerable amount of time, (3) some of the recent immigrants, (4) people from USA and Canada who have retired and made their home here. In addition, the tourists make up the larger part of the Sunday worshipping community during much of the year.

Without going into "why it is this way", I have merely given the context of the pastoral situation.

A missionary challenge. As pastor I am primarily, (i.e. almost exclusively) ministering to the practicing Catholics of the parish. These are the people who come to Sunday Eucharist, are involved in various parish activities and form the visible Catholic community. Gradually I became aware of the larger number I described above who are not church related. I also began to notice that our families were silently slipping into a secularism, materialism and relativism imbibed through television, tourism, travel and the various technologies and gadgets available, resulting in a diminishment of their faith.

I was faced with a pastoral ministry that I had not noticed and therefore neglected; namely making contact with those who are not church related or gradually withdrawing. These people on the periphery are precisely the ones I ought to be reaching out to. For me that is a distinctive priority for us Divine Word Missionaries working in parishes.

This presented a dilemma. The pastoral and administrative work I have before me is a fulltime job: Preparing Sunday and weekday Liturgies, Baptism & Marriage preparations, putting together instructive and education material for the weekly bulletin, radio broadcasts, ecumenical meetings, working with the director of the choir and youth group, the parish council, the building committee (as we plan our new church), being spiritual director for the St. Vincent de Paul Society which meets weekly, offering leadership and on-going education to the catechists, visiting the elderly and the sick, baptisms, funerals, weddings, and the endless e-mails, phone calls, and unexpected knocks on the door.

To give more attention to those on the periphery I will have to pare down some of my activities and time devoted to the active members. The ministry to those on the periphery will entail, locating and visiting them, (i.e. going to their turf). It will entail gathering with small groups in homes or at the parish centre (such as past confirmation groups, parents who have recently had children baptized, parents whose children should be in the Religious Education Programme of the parish et. al) Further along it will entail developing and training a visiting (evangelization) team from among the active parishioners. That is a tall order!

Solutions? However there is another way that I consider a more creative and effective approach. We Divine Word Missionaries in the Caribbean District could form a "mission team" who would devote themselves specifically to assisting in the parishes with the task of reaching out and evangelizing those on the periphery. It could be any combination of Priest(s), Brother(s), Sister(s). Such a mission (evangelization) team I am convinced would bear wonderful fruit.

There are several ways this could be accomplished: (1) A team of two or three could be invited to a parish for two month, and with the help of the local community, locate those who are inactive, visit them, and provide some introductory orientation and inspiration. The advantage of two or three is they could target different groups (e.g. youth and young adults, men on the job, Spanish speaking). Or (2) One member of the team could come for six months, and together with the pastor begin visiting and follow-up work with those who are receptive. Parallel to either approach the active community would be asked to support the effort by evenings of prayer. And in either approach the ultimate aim would be to form an evangelization team from within the parish to carry on this work.

Though the situation here in Anguilla may be unique I firmly believe that all of us who are pastors must find ways to reach out in a special way to those on the periphery. As Divine Word Missionaries, we are called to be missionary parish priests.

[You can contact Ed at herbsvd@anguillanet.com ]

Back to TOP

¤º°'°º¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º°'°º¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º°'°º¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º°'°º¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º°'°º¤

3. Cattáneo - PARISH BIBLE APOSTOLATE IN MINDANAO

Marcel Cattáneo, an Argentinean missionary working in the Southern Province of the Philippines, is the Province Coordinator for the Biblical Apostolate. He lives and works in the Agusan district of Mindanao, a largely rural area where 17 SVDs are assigned for missionary service. Marcel has been working together with a Bible Apostolate team to reach out to the parishes in the area. He describes the project as it has developed over the years.

Beginnings. The people keep asking me: "Father, which parish is yours?" It is still unusual for most people, here, to meet a missionary who has no direct relationship to a particular parish or a school, even though I first started my biblical missionary service when I arrived here in Agusan (Mindanao, Philippines) in 1995. Still, the Bible keeps opening new doors, and that is what is important!

A little over a year ago I returned to this district (after a time of studies) and we keep doing and undoing programs in the firm hope that we will find the way forward. It won't be a magic recipe, that's for sure, but we think we can find a good way to help the communities to read, share and learn from the Bible.

The Situation. The district is made up of eight parishes, two of which are administered by the diocesan clergy. The biggest part of the population works in agriculture and in public administration. The geographic areas is not too big, and the towns are fairly close to one another. Unfortunately the poor condition of the roads, the lack of sufficient employment and the corruption of the political class all contribute to a rather precarious life for the majority of the people. To make matters worse, the traditional pastoral outlook of the Church seems to encourage conformity and thus strengthens the status quo for the ruling class and for the big land owners.

On the plus side, a program to animate Small Christian Communities continues to grow and is gaining ground in the parishes. Also, various apostolates are coming together and pastoral ministers are showing greater interest in them. We SVDs in the district are fully committed both with our parish ministry and with a variety of other apostolates, especially those that are related to our four characteristic dimensions.

Program. I will only mention here the parts of our program that I am responsible for, that is, for the biblical apostolate. We have three objectives for this apostolate: formation-conscientization, coordination-orientation and animation.

Activities. In the first six months of the program we tried to visit each parish in the district to present and discuss the Bible program. Also, the Bible team got together two times and for our ongoing formation we followed together a program of biblical themes. We share the same themes in the communities during the celebrations of the Word. The third step was the production of some basic materials for the communities. At the parish level we have also helped to lead some reflections for the annual renewal of the ministers of the Word and of the catechists. We are also preparing some commentaries on the Sunday readings to help the ministers of the Word and a guide to help with the biblical formation of the members of the communities.

Difficulties. There are no roses without a few thorns... one of those is the limited interest on the part of some of the pastors, some feel that the Bible program is only the responsibility of the assigned coordinator. Another difficulty is the absence of a pastoral plan in most of the parishes in the district. For the moment, as a team we look to the diocesan pastoral plan. A third difficulty is the precarious financial situation of the people. Consequently the parishes have only very limited financial resources to help support the program.

[You can contact Marcelo at marcatn@libero.it ]

Back to TOP

¤º°'°º¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º°'°º¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º°'°º¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º°'°º¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º°'°º¤

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. 
 

Back to TOP


To subscribe and to send notices for publication please contact:

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