Bishop Richard Pates met with parish lay leaders last weekend and will meet with more this weekend to thank them for sharing their talents and gifts, to encourage them to evangelization, to see their effort as part of a broader Church effort, and urge them to think about how they will pass along the faith to the next generation.
The Summit on Church Administration, held Oct. 31 in Council Bluffs and scheduled for Nov. 7 in Urbandale, brought together members of pastoral councils, finance councils, trustees, school boards, boards of education and faith formation/catechesis leaders.
Parish leaders evangelize by helping people change their lives so they can live the Gospel through the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, thereby becoming the presence of Jesus to others, said Bishop Pates.
Parish leadership must ask itself how it stirs that vision, how it will pass on that responsibility to the next generation and how it will live that expression of Church in an authentic way.
An authentic expression of Church is not a collection of parishes that act independently but rather a group of faith communities that are part of a broader Church, which is effective because of its unity as one Body of Christ, said Bishop Pates.
Leadership also accomplishes its mission of evangelization by keeping in mind its goal of helping people grow in their faith, and not getting caught up in problems with a parking lot, maintenance problems and other such issues.
“The work of the priest, the parish, etc. is to bring about a sense of that unity of our being one in the Body of Christ,” said Bishop Pates. “That means we are constantly, spiritually renewing ourselves. We can get off on tangents … but we have to see and move beyond it. All people tend to go to very practical, tangible things. But the need has to be on the vision,” he said.
The Summit on Church Administration came near the same time as the 50th anniversary of the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council (Dec. 8), when a major shift began. Before Vatican II, pastors and associate pastors were responsible for virtually all the pastoral work of a parish. Currently, much of the pastoral work and guidance is offered by lay leaders through pastoral councils, finance councils, trustees and schools/faith formation groups.
“All of these organizations work on a collaborative level with the pastor, whom they advise,” said Bishop Pates. “Their members are intended to be at the heart of the formulation of their mission and the parish community’s ongoing relationship to the diocesan Church.”