Catholic People’s Week - ‘Bringing Francis into the Parish’


By: Patrick Cusack

In ‘Evangelii Gaudium’, Pope Francis tells us that an authentic faith – which is never comfortable or completely personal – always involves a deep desire to change the world. During a lively CPW week at Hyning at the end of July we looked at this apostolic exhortation, and also at the encyclical ‘Laudato Si’, in order to see how these important documents could bring about a transformation in parish life and in our personal lives if followed with commitment and enthusiasm. In Pope Francis’ view the church, at every level, must be an evangelising community, involved both by word and deed in people’s daily lives. Mission – the spreading of the joy of the gospel – is a key responsibility of all Christians, whether priests or lay people.

In the delightful surroundings of the Monastery of Our Lady of Hyning in Lancashire, participants shared their own experiences of practical ways which, by following the principles enshrined in the two documents, could lead to a richer and more productive experience both in parish life and on an individual basis. Many questions were debated: to what extent could the Church, and in particular our own parish community, be said to have mission at its heart? Are we more concerned with maintenance? We looked at ways of becoming more welcoming parishes and the degree to which lay participation was encouraged - did we for example have a Parish Council led by a lay chairman and, if so, did it have real influence on the life of the parish. Did we have a Liturgy Group, Bible Study Group or Prayer Group?

We looked at the degree to which our parishes have been effective communicators both to parishioners and to the wider world. Did we for example have a website which was always up-to-date? Did we have regular newsletter or magazine? Some parishes had joined with other local Christian churches to produce a high-quality magazine which was circulated widely in their local communities. The importance of having good links with the local media was stressed and the need to engage with local politicians and members of parliament especially over controversial issues, for example those relating to the ways in which we could welcome refugees and asylum seekers into our communities. An important issue related to the degree to which the parish engaged and encouraged the involvement of young people.

Pat Pinsent gave an excellent and thought-provoking talk on the way in which women, although holding leadership roles in the early church, have been denied opportunities for appropriate involvement in a male dominated church.

In ‘Laudato Si – On Care for our Common Home’, Pope Francis, echoing the words of Saint Francis, declares that: “Our common home (Earth) is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us”. He tells us that “this sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her”. We looked at ways in which we could make choices to live more simply, how we might become involved with organisations promoting a sustainable life style or to campaigning for a more just world. We looked at the appalling and growing inequality which prevents many, both in our own country and the wider world, from leading fulfilled lives.

We are urged to become involved, as Pope Francis insists that, “a great cultural, spiritual and educational challenge stands before us, and it will demand that we set out on the long path of renewal”.

We were grateful for the efficiency of organiser Frank Monteiro and hugely impressed by the contribution and enthusiasm of co-chairs Mike and Jackie McLoughlin. Our Chaplain Fr Dennis Keating, was a tremendous asset and will be remembered particularly for his stimulating and wide ranging reflection on “Mercy”.

We were a relatively small – about 20 - but enthusiastic group with a high degree of participation by individuals. The week ended with the usual concert, and where but on a CPW Week could this involve the community singing of “Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do” – in Latin!

Find details of further CPWs this year at: www.catholicpeoplesweeks.org.uk/eventdetails.php

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