Monday, July 29, 2013

Meetings, Ministry, Mission

A long time ago, in a parish far but not far far away, I was asked by a parish priest to become a catechist for high school (9th, 10th, 11th grade) students. It was a new program and very small. Only the priest, yours truly, and 2 other catechists were involved that first year. I loved it, except for the meetings. Oh, they were okay at times, but at other times, well, let's just say they got off track.

After my reversion to the Faith in 2004, my pastor gave me a particular responsibility (Vocations Awareness) to the parish and then guided me to participate in a couple of parish ministries. I'm sure that he did this in part because he knew that it would be important for me to stay connected and accountable to others. This was mostly a good thing for me and eventually Kendra became involved, and that was a plus too.

At one point, all of the ministry heads were asked to participate in the Parish Council. Now, our parish was small and there were not really many ministries, but I soon learned that a small group of people can have some very different ideas and opinions about what is supposed to and not supposed to happen in parish ministry or parish life or even life for that matter. I participated in just a few of these meetings before Hurricane Katrina hit, forcing our move to Texas and permanently shutting down our little parish.

Our "new" parish is rather large and has 5 or 6 or 7 times the amount of ministries as that little Louisiana parish. We have been involved in dozens of ministries during the past 8 years, and I have participated with various levels of responsibilities within those ministries. 

I've seen quite a few folks come and go and have been present for enough meetings to make a person's head spin. And trust me, mine has spun many times.

Before I go on, I want to say that what I will go on to write here is not intended to be an indictment of the many good people and ministries in my current parish and/or previous parishes. Rather, after speaking with people from other parishes and many of my non-Catholic friends as well, I find that my experiences of ministry meetings is similar to most everyone else's.

Here's the thing. I think that we have to remind ourselves of what we are doing and why we are doing it. I know that meetings are important, but is it more important than the ministry itself? Is it just me, or should not a casual observer be able to distinguish a ministry meeting from a corporate meeting, save the opening and closing prayers? There may be business to conduct, but let's remember whose "business" it is.

Originally I was going to use some generic examples of how a meeting can get in the way of ministry. However, I think that could hurt some feelings and lead some to believe I am criticizing. I'm not. Well, it's not my intention anyway. 

It's simply my intention to say that when we meet, I think we should be asking what we are meeting for. Is it not to cooperate with God and the mission of the Church to bring about the salvation of souls? If that's not what the ministry is there for, is it really a ministry?

Decisions should be made on how best to serve the pastoral needs of the community, right?

Funds should be allocated in a way which will bring the most good without causing harm.

Events should be planned with a spiritual focus first; entertainment and individual recognition flowing from such, not the primary objectives.

Recognizing that many in the community struggle with particular addictions, we should encourage and engage in conversations and activities that do not ignore them, but seek to shed light on the realities of their struggles, creating a stronger, more compassionate community.

If we remember why we are doing what we are doing and Who we are doing it for, I believe many of the "how to" questions will take care of themselves.

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