Editorial – Ministry in community

Marnie McAllister

If you’ve been reading The Record regularly over the last two years or so, you’ll have noticed a trend. Story after story explains that some new or reorganized ministry is a collaboration among diocesan offices, clergy, religious and parishioners.

For example, last week’s paper highlighted a new initiative to expand Catholic ministry in jails. This ministry has been conducted by a handful of people in the past, each operating independently, for the most part.

Now, they’re getting together and examining how they might expand and organize. Among those involved are Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, parishioners of area parishes, Catholic Charities and three other archdiocesan offices — the Office of Worship, the Family Ministries Office and the Diaconate Office.

This example demonstrates a relatively new and intentional model in the Archdiocese of Louisville to break down silos and crack open new opportunities for ministry.

The Archdiocese of Louisville should be commended for fostering this shared ministry.

The archdiocese first tried this approach in 2016, near the close of the Year of Mercy, with the Archdiocese of Louisville Life Conference.

The conference brought together people who rarely overlap in their ministries, such as those working to stop abortion, others interested in ending the death penalty, people who support immigrants and those working to curb racism.

Each of these ministries uphold the dignity of life. People who are passionate these issues can easily operate in their own silos and possibly even accomplish small things.

But this new approach holds potential for something larger than one ministry, it offers a vision of ministry in community. And not just any community, but a faith community that values its diversity of ministry.

This approach asks something more of Catholics. It asks us to see the value in one another’s ministry, to share resources when possible and to prayerfully support one another.

This vision flowed naturally from the Year of Mercy, when the church collectively paid special attention to the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.

Pope Francis’ latest focus, an apostolic exhortation calling all people to holiness, provides guidance and affirmation as the archdiocese continues to seek ways to minister in community.

The Holy Father explains at the outset of the exhortation — “Rejoice and be Glad” — that each is called to holiness in his or her own way.

“The important thing is that each believer discerns his or her own path, that they bring out the very best of themselves, the most personal gifts that God has placed in their hearts,” Pope Francis writes, citing 1st Corinthians chapter 12, verse 7.

He goes on to explain that each Christian life is a mission, a path of holiness.

“Each saint is a mission, planned by the Father to reflect and embody, at a specific moment in history, a certain aspect of the Gospel,” he writes.

Each of us, on our own path with Christ, seeks to live that mission. How much better to do so side by side with our brothers and sisters?

Near the end of the exhortation, Pope Francis dedicates a section to community.

He explains, “When we live apart from others, it is very difficult to fight against concupiscence, the snares and temptations of the devil and the selfishness of the world. … Growth in holiness is a journey in community, side by side with others.”

He goes on to point out that whole communities have been canonized together.

“Sharing the word and celebrating the Eucharist together fosters fraternity and makes us a holy missionary community. It also gives rise to authentic and shared mystical experiences,” he writes.

Most importantly, he said, living in community gives rise to small, everyday opportunities for holiness.

“The common life, whether in the family, the parish, the religious community or any other, is made up of small everyday things …,” he writes. “A community that cherishes the little details of love, whose members care for one another and create an open and evangelizing environment, is a place where the risen Lord is present, sanctifying it in accordance with the Father’s plan.”

MARNIE McALLISTER

Editor

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