among the People
Reflection on a recent Vatican Instruction
Towards a missionary parish
Archbishop Jorge Carlos Patrón Wong
Secretary for Seminaries in the Congregation of the Clergy
In July 2020, the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy published the Instruction, The pastoral conversion of the parish community in the service of the evangelising mission of the Church. The document, developed from experiences of ecclesial life worldwide, aims to both encourage bishops, priests, and laity to reflect on the change of epoch in which we are living, and to recall those canonical norms that offer the basis for concrete, creative initiatives regarding new ways of living the parish pastorate.
For years, particularly in the Western Church, there have been discussions on the crisis in the handing down of the faith. Obviously, there are many reasons behind the ‘loss’ of a sense of God. But rather than slowing down further to analyze the reasons, the Christian community today is called to renew its push to evangelize.
Pope Francis’ magisterium is a constant invitation to recover, as a Church and individually, the heart of Christian mission, to proclaim the joy of the Gospel and enable a true, living encounter with Jesus. This is only possible, however, with what the Holy Father refers to in his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, as
[ . . .] a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation. The renewal of structures demanded by pastoral conversion can only be understood in this light: as part of an effort to make them more mission-oriented, to make ordinary pastoral activity on every level more inclusive and open, to inspire in pastoral workers a constant desire to go forth and in this way to elicit a positive response from all those whom Jesus summons to friendship with himself. (EG, 27)