What models do Catholics have of parish life? Is a parish fundamentally a social gathering? In this case, sacraments become markers of what it means to be part of this social gathering. Or is it more participation in a common cultural event? In that case, weekly liturgy can be beautiful and empowering for many but more as participation in a common spectacle or ritual. Or is a parish a place that promotes and shares right thinking about the world, sharing meaning and passing on Catholic teaching and doctrine? Another model for many is that parishes are really the places where social change can be organized. Just think back to the days when almost all success came from Catholic parishes that mobilized their people. And certainly for the 5 to 10 percent of Catholics who can be defined as deeply social justice Catholics—those for whom Catholic social justice teachings are absolutely central—parish is precisely this. Or are parishes institutions that fundamentally are about preserving and reproducing themselves—simply carrying on patterns to maintain a functioning physical plant of school and church? Parishes may be any of these models, and far more besides. The question is: What is behind the model? Is there something deeper that brings people there and produces commitment from those in ministry? And if parishioners and those in ministry understand parishes in different ways, how will the parish function? Clearly, leadership and community are both key—but understanding how people think of parish life is even more fundamental. © 2005, Bryan Froehle.
Authors Bryan FroehleRestricted