Our parishes exist so that people can encounter the Risen Christ and enter into a profound relationship with him. They are also to be centres of missionary activity where the good news – the promise that Christ has come to give us life in abundance and that he will liberate us from sin and death – is actively made known to others. Each of us is called to be an ambassador of Jesus Christ and our parishes are to be embassies of hope, truth and prayer where all can seek asylum and know God’s mercy.
Making this truth known has become ever more urgent in a society such as our own which is either indifferent or resistant to God. Of course, the danger is that in our hands, the good news can sometimes lose its flavour, vitality and attractiveness. We can become a church of maintenance – just keeping things chugging along as they always have been – rather than one of mission, which can imagine creative ways to meet the challenges before us. Using wisely the human and material resources available to them, we need to play our part in the mission of the Church.
Pope Francis puts it like this:
What should the Church strip herself of?
She must strip away every kind of worldly spirit, which is a temptation for everyone; strip away every action that is not for God, that is not from God; strip away the fear of opening doors and going out to encounter all, especially the poorest of the poor, the needy, the remote…Certainly not to get lost in the shipwreck of the world, but to bear with courage the light of Christ, the light of the Gospel, even in the darkness, where one can’t see, where one might stumble.
She must strip away the seeming assurance structures give, which, though certainly necessary and important, sold never obscure the one true strength it carries within: God.
How can our parish community best bear with courage the light of Christ to the men and women of our own time?
What structures and poor use of resources in the life of our parish community hinder our ability to know and make known the living God?
Such questions were considered last year in relation to the present linking of the Cathedral parish and Holy Cross parish. All parishioners were invited to give their views and a number did. Of course, this discussion has been going on for many, many years and under different parish priests. From these views, a series of seven proposals were formulated. Again, people were invited to respond to them. The proposals, the responses from parishioners and priests, were given to the Bishop for his consideration. He has done this with a special attention to the spiritual and pastoral needs of the diocese. Bishop Alan believes that Proposal Seven provides the best way forward for our parish to flourish and to meet the real challenges before us:
Proposal 7: To end the present linking and make the Cathedral and Holy Cross into one parish
Holy Cross would revert, in a sense, to its original role as a mission church, that is, a distinctive place of worship that would support the work of a single parish. In this way, the long term future of Holy Cross would be assured but there would be sacrifices as well.
As a single parish, there would be a real opportunity to develop a common sense of purpose and mission – no longer two communities, coexisting in an unequal and uneasy relationship, but one community renewed in its desire to live by word and sacrament in Christ. The clergy, supported by the people, would now meet the sacramental, spiritual and pastoral needs of one community, rather than two. In this way, the energies and resources of these two communities would be harnessed into one so that we might better make known the good news of God’s grace in a more effective and credible way.
This is already happening in terms of catechetics – our Baptism, First Reconciliation, First Holy Communion, Confirmation, Journey in Faith (RCIA) and Marriage preparation programmes cover the needs of all parishioners in both communities. The foundations already exist with which to build a single parish.
Of course, both communities will have to readjust to living as one parish community. This will require new ways of thinking and restructuring. There will undoubtedly be initial challenges that would have to be met with faith, hope and charity. But, with faith, none of these challenges are insurmountable.
Creating a single parish will mean using Holy Cross church in new ways.
It will mean:
- The 11.00 a.m. Sunday Mass would come to an end and the Saturday evening Vigil Mass would be celebrated in Holy Cross church. Therefore, on a Sunday there would be five Masses for people to attend in the parish plus a 10.00 a.m. Mass being celebrated at the Marillac.
- Weekday Masses would be celebrated at the Cathedral as is presently the case.
- Along with the present number of Masses celebrated at the Cathedral, there would be a Mass celebrated at Holy Cross church on Christmas Day and Easter Sunday.
- Baptisms, funerals and weddings would continue to be celebrated in Holy Cross church for those who requested them.
- The upkeep, maintenance and care of Holy Cross Church would be the responsibility of the whole parish.
- Liturgical provision for the Vigil Mass and any other liturgical celebrations at Holy Cross church would be the concern of the whole parish.
- There would be one Parish Council, one Finance Committee and one Liturgy Group.
Now, both our communities must work towards our two separate parishes becoming one parish. This has now taken place (Easter Sunday). The death and resurrection of Christ will become ours in a very real way this year.
Of course, such a change, as with any change, will involve loss and, for some people, this loss will be a source of sadness and grief. We must recognise this and be sensitive to those people who feel this loss most deeply, especially those who have given so generously of their spiritual gifts and practical talents.
At the same time, every change is the promise of a future where God’s grace may flourish in ways that we could not begin to imagine. Without a hope in the future, we resign ourselves to living in a past, one that may have served previous generations well, but can no longer respond to the missionary needs of our own time. As Christians, our hope is in the Risen Christ who keeps his Church ever youthful and who provides fresh wine for new skins. With that knowledge and trusting in God’s promise, we should face the future as one parish with great confidence and Easter hope.