Monday, November 23, 2009

Parish Pastoral Assembly 2009, 2/3

Keynote Address for Parish Pastoral Assembly 2009
By Fr. Michael Chua

A warm welcome to all of you who have made time to come for this assembly. We, the priests and the Pastoral Council members, are grateful to you for your unwavering support and commitment to the pastoral plan of our parish. As in the past, I would like to share a few thoughts with you which I hope will help you to evaluate the pastoral direction of our parish in order to plan for the future.

In helping our people and BECs to reflect on this year’s theme, “It’s Good to Be in Small Groups,” we have highlighted certain essential key indicators of growth throughout the course of the year: in our ACTM Formation, BEC reflection modules, Zone Visits, Parish Feast Day/ Triduum, Parish Retreat, and Parish Inter-zone BEC Games. These growth indicators, as you are aware are based on the model of the early Christian Community in Acts 2:42-47: fellowship, discipleship, prayer, ministry, and witnessing.

These days we have heard a lot of what isn’t working and how Catholics are indifferent to both community and ministry. The recent survey indicates that our BECs and perhaps the parish and its members have often been emphasizing one dimension of growth to the detriment of others.

There is an urgent need to revisit the early Christian community to find an answer to our predicament. The mission of the early church can be understood in terms of two fundamental polarities -- each of which existed in tension with the other; building communities and making disciples. In the past and now, these two polarities preserve and serve to fulfill one another -- one is internally oriented and the other externally. Peter and Paul best represents these two polarities. Paul represents mission, an external focus of the Church on making disciples. Peter, by contrast can be said to represent community, an internal focus of the Church on meeting the needs of the faithful.

Although these polarities are in tension, both were and are necessary to a vital Church. Over the past decades, our parish may have lost our emphasis on mission, concentrating instead on just meeting the daily needs of members. Without mission, community in our church has come to mean little more than maintenance of the status quo. Without mission, the Church is impoverished and will even begin to die.

In order to regain this balance and to return to the roots of our identity and mission, we all need to make a shift: moving from maintenance to mission; from inward looking to outward looking; from activities to spirituality; from mere participation to genuine discipleship, this will ultimately breathe new life into our faith communities.

Mission is never just a human endeavour. It is living out the great commission of Christ. It means returning to the gospel of Jesus Christ and making it the soul and core of our lives. Next year, our parish moves into the second stage of New Image of the Parish (NIP) and also its fourth year. The focus for the year would be the Bible.

The Parish Pastoral Council has chosen the theme, “The Bible, A Guide for our Steps, A Light for the World.” As a focus, we want to make the Bible, the Word of God the centre of our lives, and the basis of mission: building Community and Unity, Discipleship, Prayer, Service, and Witnessing. Throughout the year, we will help parishioners to own and realize this theme by providing them with a simple method of reading and praying the bible, Lectio Divina (Spiritual Reading). We hope that by the end of the year every family or member should have a bible and make bible reading a regular feature of their daily lives. Conversion and change will follow when one is touched by God’s Word.

May the Word of God be a “lamp for our feet and light for our path.” (Psa 119:105)

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