A Vision for Missionary Discipleship Flowing From Parishes

Baltimore’s Archbishop Lori issued a pastoral letter on Pentecost focusing on “Evangelization-Based Parish Planning.” I like the sound of that. Evangelization can and should be the basis of all of our planning–not just an add-on.

Here are some highlights applicable well beyond the Archdiocese of Baltimore:

Set the Right Tone

He writes: “We do not wage war against the culture but recognize instead that in every age the Gospel we preach both engages the ambient culture and at the same time challenges it.” Great point. We can’t do the work of building trust through pre-evangelization if the perception is that Christianity is at war with the culture.

Hey You in Ministry. What Do You Do at Work?

Archbishop Lori reflects on observing that “in our meetings and discussions [at the archdiocese] we don’t talk enough about the “core business,” and the “core business” of the Church is “the kerygma” – spreading the Good News of the Lord’s life, teaching, miracles, death, resurrection and exaltation, coupled with the coming of the Holy

Spirit at Pentecost. We face that very human tendency to focus on the business and the planning at hand but not enough on the mission for which we were transacting the business and doing the planning.”

Ministry isn’t just doing [education, organization, financial planning, facilities management, etc.] in the Church. The core business is spreading the Gospel. Is your workplace filled with the power of the Holy Spirit? Does every staff member own the call to missionary discipleship?

Conversion First

Archbishop Lori describes participating in the ChristLife program (initial proclamation and response) with inner staff, and then expanding it to the entire body of staff. This shows leadership priorities. We can’t just talk about conversion–but have to live it. We must experience it. And, if I don’t know the conversion stories of my co-workers, how can we minister together? It’s about trust, building shared vocabulary, and ending the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (Weddell, Forming Intentional Disciples) culture that sadly permeates many Catholic settings.

Even the Best Intentions Can Lead to “Business as Usual”

Archbishop Lori recalls developing a pastoral plan, and then hearing feedback that it was simply “‘business as usual’ but with an evangelization label appended.” Haven’t we all been there? Sigh. It’s okay to go back to the drawing board. Sometimes we need to break out of old patterns and silos. Don’t be afraid to be bold. Our Church’s teachings are often much larger than the cultural and organizational habits we inherit.

Get Out There

In many parishes across the U.S., the assumption is that “our job” is to “offer good things and then hope that people will show up.” No. This doesn’t cut it. If that was the norm, it was as wrong then as it is now. The Gospels show us a God who seeks the lost with love and persistence. Archbishop Lori exhorts us to “actively in search of those who need to hear the Gospel, actively trying to make connections with people in the parish boundaries, intentionally inclusive of parishioners and potential parishioners in all their diversity.”

 

Read it all here.

 

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