|Mass is the center of a Catholic Community|
but its Mission is what gives it authenticity
This sense of Mission in this parish is something that was developed and is still maintained by the laity. The pastor is free for celebrating Mass, preparing his homilies, hearing confessions, and being available for the pastoral needs of his parishioners because he trusts the laity to take responsibility for the mission of the parish. While there is only the pastor and the parochial vicar for the Hispanic Community and no other priests, the parish staff includes over a dozen full-time lay ministers for youth, religious education, social concerns, liturgy/music, adult faith formation, etc. In addition there is a full time administrator who looks after the finances and maintenance issues. In many ways it is an ideal ecclesial community and a healthy parish draws healthy parishioners. Granted its emphasis on social concerns and the “Social Gospel” has caused some people to go to more “traditional” parishes, those who choose this particular church make a choice and that choice is precisely what gives people a sense of investment and belonging that draws them to fuller participation. This is not an easy place to “just go to Mass;” go to Mass and you will want to become more and more invested in the community.
My experience is that this is the sort of parish that was envisioned in the Reforms of the Second Vatican Council. It is an active community whose mission finds its purpose in the Word of God and its strength in the Eucharist and whose Eucharistic Celebrations not only empower its members for service but are themselves enriched by the experience of the parishioners sharing in the mission of Jesus. While many of the other parishes around have sufficient Masses for their needs, as well as Holy Hours, Benediction, Rosaries, and Novenas they lack the spiritual vitality of this parish because they limit the expression of their faith to devotional practices (and have reduced the Mass to the level of a “super-devotion”) instead of providing the opportunity for their members to lead lives of discipleship. My only fear is that as the Second Vatican Council is stripped from the memory of today’s Catholics and replaced by a reconstruction of the preconciliar American Immigrant Catholicism the Catholic Church in our country will lose not only its energy but what credibility it still has as a harbinger of the Gospel.