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Parish Conversations

Parish conversations entail openness to conversion and change. Hence, it is important that our liturgical celebrations, particularly the Holy Eucharist, be translated into concrete reflections of God’s healing presence in our day-to-daylives.

I cannot forget the experience of having gone to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist in Arizona in the U.S. Right after Mass, the parish priest went out and spoke with us who participated in the Sacrament. He made time andeffort to reach out to his parishioners, and discovered that there were visitors around because it was the first time that he had seen our faces.

Not all parish priests have the luxury of time to do that, considering the size of some communities and urgent matters they need to attend to. Here in the Philippines, during pre-pandemic times, we used to have several Masses lined up on Sundays, and it would have been difficult for the presider tochat awhile with the parishioners. However, it does make a lot of difference that the parish priest is visible and tries to establish connections with his flock.

The pandemic has changed the climate of the celebration of our highest form of worship, and has pushed us to shift to digital means. Online celebrations cannot replace the physical reception of the Eucharist, but we have had to make these necessary adjustments, for our safety, particularly of the most vulnerable among us.

There is nothing like personalized face-to-face encounters, but I guess the question is, in person or not, what have been the pressing concerns in our parishes and have we all striven to create communities and not just constructed buildings where parishioners are tasked to complete projects and to-do lists?

We might have forgotten that ministry ideally stems from a relationship with God and relationships with our brothers and sisters. Have we as a Church been creating impact, not only through liturgical celebrations, but by effectively sharing an integrative approach to life, stemming from a deeply anchored union with God?Have our beautiful rituals translated into concrete reflections of God’s healing presence in our personal and professional undertakings? 

I admire the sacrifices that many of our priests and lay persons serving during this pandemic have made, especially in making the sacraments accessible, in the best possible way, to parishioners and to others even outside the parish territory. Despite struggles in many Filipino parishes to sustain themselves financially due to dwindling collections, I have personally seen the tireless efforts of many Church servant leaders in initiating creative ways to continue spreading God’s Word.

It also saddens me that there are some people who have remained stubborn about health protocols, citing faith as their shield, when, I believe, faith also entails that we observe practical steps to take care of ourselves, as the Church and health experts have authorized and strongly suggested.

Genuine parish conversations involve what the Vademecum document for the synodal journey published by the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops in September 2021 cites: “Openness to conversion and change,” ”An innovative outlook,” and “Understanding the concept of a co-responsible Church.”In order for the Spirit to powerfully move in our parishes, we need to not only celebrate the liturgy of the Holy Eucharist, but more importantly, to live it out by listening to, helping and supporting one another, and by making Christ real to each another.

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