I don’t normally get my “great spiritual insights” from websites like The Onion, but I saw this article and it made me think about something. Last month I wrote about the 8th commandment and my reflection on what it means to “Bear True Witness.” Then I saw this satire about how “more than half the population live their entire lives without adding to the story in a meaningful way.” I got to thinking about the story of our parishes in the world.
A hard question to consider is, “What impact would it have on the community if this parish didn’t exist anymore?”
OOF, that’s a question most people don’t want to even think about. Like it’s bad juju (which we don’t even accept as fact) to consider our parish not being around. It’s not – it’s actually an important reflection on the impact we’re making in the story of salvation.
Not to boast or be prideful, but instead as an examine of conscience about what our parish does.
There are the simple answers like: The Eucharist wouldn’t be available on a daily/weekly basis for the people who attend here regularly. Children wouldn’t get educated in the faith or receive their Sacraments of Initiation. People would need to drive further (5 minutes to 1 hour, depending on your location) to get to a church.
The spiritual implications are obvious – and important.
What about the community implications? The children who receive gifts from the Angel Tree each year would have less joy and hope in their lives. The Food Pantry would have less supply and fewer volunteers. The mission we’ve adopted in Haiti/Brazil/DR Congo would go without support.
What else? If a priest doesn’t live in this area there are some people who might never interact with one. Children may never see the beauty of a religious sister’s vocation and that God might be calling them toward something more. A passerby might not see scripture each day on their way to work (my parish has a verse on their letter board by the road that changes each week). The AA or Alanon meeting we host might not find another free space to provide help for those seeking to change their lives.
If you can’t come up with a great list of the impact that your parish is making on the community, it might be time to re-evaluate your outreach efforts. Maybe it’s time to think about what it really means to “Exist in order to Evangelize” as Paul VI says the Church does.