Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Does your parish have a pastoral plan?

One of the things that has come out of our battle, in Ontario, with the Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy and Bill 13 is that many of our parishes had no knowledge of what was happening and no plan to fight back. Without a clear strategy it's difficult to promote and defend the faith as a family of believers. The first apostles were stronger by the very fact that they were a faith community with a mission to evangelize. Did any diocese, including the archdiocese, in this province have a plan to communicate the moral dangers to Catholic education inherent in the "Equity" policy and later the legislation known as Bill 13 to parishes and to schools? Did the Catholic boards have a plan to combat the "Equity" policy? What about our trustees? If any of them did, it was not effectively shared with the faithful in the pews, the parent councils and at board meetings. As a result, our response was weak, often disorganized and ineffectual.

The lesson learned here is that we need as a community of faith to have a plan to effectively live, defend and spread our faith, in our schools, in our families and in our parishes. This is particularly important as we celebrate the upcoming Year of Faith. Why not make this project a personal, parish or family objective? In order to help us renew and deepen our faith, Pope Benedict XVI has sent us an Apostolic Letter of love called, Porta Fidei; the year will also mark the 50th anniversary since the publication of the Vatican II documents, and twenty years of the release of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Our plan could begin simply by reading this letter. If you were to receive a love letter from your father, would you leave it unread?

Pope John Paul II, on the very day on which he closed the Holy Door for the Holy Year, January 6, 2001, he issued a brand new document entitled Novo Millennio Ineunte, As We Enter the Third Millennium. In this magnificent apostolic letter, the Holy Father gave his pastoral plan to the whole universal Church at the dawn of the new millennium; he emphasized seven pastoral priorities. The plan can be easily applied to local parishes and archdioceses. It was the Holy Father making a proposal to the Church to spiritually renew itself. Of course to implement any part or the entire plan will require a collaborative effort with our pastors and other Church leaders. But first we do need to think about developing a spiritual map to get us there, and then look for ways to make it work. Here's the seven pastoral priorities:

1. Holiness
2. Prayer as a reciprocal conversation with God
3. The centrality of the Eucharist in Catholic belief and practice
4. Frequent confession
5. To live by grace and by the Spirit
6. Frequent meditation on the Scriptures and the New Catechism
7. The new evangelization

Any informed Christian/Catholic individual, family and school that was trying to follow and live even to a minimum standard the first six parts of this pastoral plan would have recognized the moral problems with the "Equity" policy and Bill 13, from the very beginning. The fact that the government was able to pass this new policy in all school boards and then approve Bill 13, shows that most of us were either badly informed, not practicing the first six parts of this pastorasl plan or a combination of both. We leave the answer in God's hands. However, the forces of secularism in Ontario and in the rest of Canada are organized and will not go away any time soon. One of the ways in which Christians/Catholics can recover a sense of direction on this earthly pilgrimage is to try to establish and follow a spiritual plan to rebuild and to rediscover the faith.

We need to pray for God's grace to help us with every step we take. We must look to Christ's life on earth and His plan for human salvation as the perfect example. In the next posting, we will look at some of the specific details for doing this. We welcome your comments and suggestions as to how this initiative can best work for our families, our schools and our parishes: "For where two or three meet in my name, I am there among them." (Mt. 18: 20)

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