THE PARISH COMMUNITY
78. The PARISH is the place where the mystery of the Church is present and at work. It represents, in a real way, the visible Church and is the cell of a Diocese. It is not principally an institution, a territory or a building but rather a community of the Christian faithful. The essential reason for establishing a Parish is pastoral care.
79. In every diocese, “the parish remains the ordinary place where the faithful gather to grow in faith, to live the mystery of ecclesial communion and to take part in the Church’s mission” (EA 25). Therefore, the pastors are urged to devise new and effective ways of animating the faithful, so that everyone, specially the poor, will feel truly a part of the Parish and of God’s people as a whole. “No one should be excluded a priori from sharing fully in the life and mission of the parish because of their social, economic, political, cultural or educational background. Just as each follower of Christ has a gift to offer to the community, so the community should show a willingness to receive and benefit from the gift of each one” (EA 25, cf. NMI 43).
80. Whatever is planned and promoted for the renewal of the Church at the diocesan level should have its counterpart at the parish level for the sake of an authentic ecclesiogenesis and ecclesial growth of the PARISH COMMUNITY.
SMALL CHRISTIAN COMMUNITIES
81. Given the enormous size of our Parishes, both in geographical area and in population, SCCs are a visible means to promote among the faithful deep fellowship and pastoral care with a personal touch. Basically, they are evangelizing communities founded on the Word of God and are dynamic channels of God experience as well as effective instruments of service of the whole community. They are thus “a solid starting point for a new society based on A ‘CIVILIZATION OF LOVE’” (EA 25).
82. They call for a leadership that is not dominating but rather animating, encouraging, acknowledging talents//gifts and empowering every member of the Church to be active in the mission of Christ. They “are a true expression of communion and means for the construction of a more profound communion. They are thus cause for a great hope for the life of the Church” (RM 51).
83. For this purpose, individuals and families of the neighbourhood, get together to reflect collectively on the Word of God, to pray together and to act in solidarity in the light of the Gospel in order to render service to the sisters and brothers according to the various needs that demand our commitment for total human development and authentic liberation of the human person (cf. CL 26). In addition to these specifically Christian concerns other important human values emerge: friendship, personal recognition, a spirit of co-responsibility, creativity, vocational response, concern for the problems of the world and the Church.
84. Many do not seem to have understood the specific role and contribution of the SCCs in the building up of the parish community. SCCs are often mistaken for ‘prayer groups’. They need to be action oriented. It is sad that members of other Associations and Movements existing in the parish look down upon the members of SCCs as secondary Christians/parishioners. They fail to realise that they themselves should be part of the SCCs. Conversely, it is also noticed that there prevails a domineering attitude on the part of some leaders of SCCs.
- 85.1 There is need for proper catechesis and ongoing formation at the level of the entire Parish to make pastors, religious and lay people aware of the nature and function of the SCCs and of the fact that the SCCs are essential for the building of the parish community.
- 85.2 SCCs should mirror and exercise the true communion of the Church by facilitating the participation of every member of the family of God without any trace of discrimination, e.g. disparity between rich and poor, young and old, men and women, and caste based differences. The participation of the entire families of the neighbourhood/ward in SCCs would be ideal.
- 85.3 Members of the SCCs should be keen to welcome and take part in all the initiatives and programmes undertaken by the various Centres/Commissions meant for their integral Faith Formation. SCCs should be the proper loci for Adult and Family Faith Formation.
- 85.4 The SCCs should make positive efforts to enter into a Dialogue of Life and Action in their own neighbourhoods with people of Other Faiths, for instance, by organizing inter-religious prayer services, participating in their festivals, inviting them to our feasts, organizing talks, seminars and discussions on topics of common interest. All these joint activities would really prepare the way for the formation of the SHCs. SCCs should encourage members to participate in public meetings like Gram Sabhas meant for the welfare of the whole village community.