An Advent Journey with Pope Francis and Evangelii Gaudium, Part 11
The parish is not an outdated institution; precisely because it possesses great flexibility, it can assume quite different contours depending on the openness and missionary creativity of the pastor and community. (Evangelii Gaudium, 28)
For many of us, the parish is our most tangible experience of being church. It is a great blessing to be part of a vibrant, prayerful and life-giving parish. Good energy begets good energy. Growth happens, both personally and communally. But, if we are part of “a useless structure out of touch with people or a self-absorbed group made up of a chosen few” (in the words of Francis), then we can expect a well beaten path to the door.
The freedom for a parish to seek its own unique path depends not only the pastor and the community. It also depends on the good will and trust of the local bishop. Freedom always demands that some power is relinquished, and some bishops aren’t ready to do this. A micro-managing bishop is not comfortable with flexibility or “different contours.” Some are threatened when a parish becomes too popular or successful. Allowing “openness and missionary creativity” means letting go of visions of cookie cutter parishes molded to the ideological preferences of the current leadership.
Flexibility. It’s not a word that we are used to hearing in our church. But then again, many of the words of Pope Francis have a refreshing and much welcomed tone.