RE CL 11/1/04: Thank you, Fr Kevin Ryan, for bringing some difficult topics into focus.
Is anyone in the Church doing the simple maths regarding future population needs and exploring alternatives to the outdated and irrelevant parish concept?
Can we expect young families who are struggling to meet housing loans to pay for churches which are used only for a few hours a week? What happens when the struggle gets harder, people stop coming to Mass and the ones who are left have a financial burden for years?
Are we too timid to share churches with other denominations (already happening in some places) or to use schools as Mass centres?
Even if the seminaries filled tomorrow, and stayed full for two generations, this would not scratch the surface of needs. Lay people do most of the day to day work in mission countries. Why aren’t ministry teams, lay leaders and small groups being trained to keep alive the faith without depending entirely on the Mass?
Do we need to re-evangelise the Church as a whole, treating the Australian Church as a mission territory and beginning again? Why not train catechists, small group and team leaders and make the day to day care of the people a lay responsibility, as no priest today or in the foreseeable future will hope to know a fraction of his community?
We already have building blocks in the form of family groups, Alpha courses and other Christian community concepts, but serious adult faith education in basic teaching not theology is necessary now, as many of us who try to have discussions find a distressing lack of knowledge about Church teaching and the reasons for it, and not only amongst the young.
Let’s look at regions of communities, instead of geographical parishes. If canon law needs to be changed to accommodate this reality, change it. Why should God’s people go without ministry because of antiquated concepts?
God promised to be with us always, but he didn’t promise we wouldn’t make mistakes. Why not step out of the boat, keep our eyes on him, and trust him not to let us sink, no matter how stormy the seas?