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Let’s look at the parish as it is today. In various parts of the world, it is, according to the experts, going through a period of uncertainty and even crisis. With the changed conditions of life (the decline of agricultural society, the migration of peoples and the spread of secularism), the parish, once the centre of social life, is now a marginal reality, occasionally useful for religious ceremonies. It no longer has an evangelising impact, attracting the men and women of our time.
The bishops have always asserted its importance, also in recent documents, while noting too that it is in need of renewal.
People are seeking in all kinds of ways to renew the face of the parish.
The Lord has given us a charism for today’s world, the charism of unity. I am sure that it can help parish communities to renew themselves, and become what they ought to be – the living Church, where everyone can find God, Jesus.
Let’s feel the responsibility of having received such a gift from God and let’s have the courage to spread the spirituality of unity, especially now that Pope John Paul II has recommended it to the whole Church as the “spirituality of communion”.
I know that you are working in parishes as members of various Councils and commissions, or as catechists and Eucharistic ministers, or you are working in parish projects in various fields. I am sure that your lives are already radiating this spirituality.
Now I am inviting you to take a further step... take every opportunity – personal encounters, catechesis, reunions – in order to spread the spirituality of communion, it is wholly Gospel!
Be “leaven for communion”, as John Paul II said, and try to remedy with charity and personal love for Jesus Forsaken any conflicts and divisions that arise
Do not rest until communion is being lived in the whole parish community. That is the only way it can be a convincing witness, a community that shines for the whole Church to see. That is how “new parishes” will come to life.
Parishes where the word, the Eucharist, and fraternal union, are lived like in the first Christian communities.
Parishes which value the different charisms within them, that act in communion with other parishes, that work together with the various movements in complete harmony between institutions and charisms.
Parishes that engage in dialogue with Christians of other Churches or the faithful of other religions, and are catholic in every way.
Parishes, finally, where the maternal and Marian face of the Church shines out. Where Mary is present, in fact, so that like her, the community can “generate” Jesus among his people.
Wouldn’t it be marvellous to enliven the local Church in such a way that people can say, “Come and see”?
It could seem like a dream. It must become real.
That is what I expect from you.
And I am sure that your bishops and the whole of the society you live in will be happy.
Taken from her last message, on 24 May 2005, to the members of Focolare engaged in parish work, gathered at Castel Gandolfo. The entire text was published in Italian in “Gen’s” 35 (2005) pp. 108-109