BRISBANE’S evangelisation director believes a new instruction from the Vatican for the renewal of parishes will help the Church to “look, feel and sound more like Jesus”.
Deacon Peter Pellicaan, of Evangelisation Brisbane, which serves parishes and communities across Brisbane archdiocese, said a new instruction issued by the Congregation for Clergy on Monday (July 20) was a “powerful vision” of what a parish should be.
The instruction is aimed at encouraging renewal, stating in the introduction that the current parish model “no longer adequately corresponds to the many expectations of the faithful”.
Titled “The pastoral conversion of the parish community in the service of the evangelising mission of the Church”, the instruction offers opportunities for parishes to become more like Pope Francis’ vision of the missionary Church.
While much of the document relates to canonical norms for parish structures, Deacon Pellicaan said it also emphasised that renewal started with a personal encounter with Christ.
“When Rome produces a document called ‘The pastoral conversion of the parish community in the service of the evangelising mission of the Church’ and then the document essentially just maps out all the existing Church structures and how they should be applied, it suggests that Rome believes that renewal will not come from the abandoning of existing structures but rather from the personal encounter with Jesus that transforms the lives of the faithful and imbues them with faith, hope and love,” Deacon Pellicaan said.
“It is this encounter that makes the Church look, feel and sound more like Jesus – and that’s a Church that is attractive, life-giving, and can’t help but be relevant.”
Deacon Pellicaan said for most parishioners, the first section of the document was really worth reading.
“For those not interested in canonical provisions, but are interested in parish life, the first 41 paragraphs are recommended reading,” he said.
While the guidelines are not binding, the instruction urges parishes against becoming bureaucratic institutions that offer events and services for the sake of self-preservation.
“In the process of renewal and restructuring, the parish has to avoid the risk of falling into an excessive and bureaucratic organisation of events and an offering of services that do not express the dynamic of evangelisation, but rather the criterion of self-preservation,” the instruction said.
“Parish communities will find herein a call to go out of themselves, offering instruments for reform, even structural, in a spirit of communion and collaboration, of encounter and closeness, of mercy and solicitude for the proclamation of the Gospel.”
The document encourages parishes and its structures to teach the faithful how to evangelise and pray for the building of the Kingdom.
It also refers to canonical recommendations for the geographic structure of parishes and best leadership of a parish, particularly in dire cases where there cannot be a parish priest appointed to a community.
The instruction emphasises the importance of finance and pastoral councils for supporting the missionary works of parishes.