Similarities, differences noted among parish communities - Catholic Courier
Matthew H. Clark Matthew H. Clark

Similarities, differences noted among parish communities

It is always with great delight that I join parish communities and, especially, to celebrate the Sunday eucharistic liturgy with them. So it was with special pleasure that last weekend I had that honor with three different communities.

Although it is not at all necessary to do so, each parish chose a particular occasion on which to preside and preach at their celebration.

St. Gabriel Parish, Hammondsport, celebrated the 100th anniversary of the building of their present church after their former church was destroyed by fire.

Holy Family Parish (formed from St. Mary, Dansville; St. Pius V, Cohocton; Sacred Heart, Perkinsville; and St. Joseph, Wayland) gathered at Babcock Park in Dansville for an outdoor Mass and picnic. They wanted to celebrate their work together and to ask God’s continued blessings on the work that lies ahead.

St. Lawrence Parish, Greece, wanted to celebrate both the feast of their patron saint and the 50th anniversary of the foundation of their parish by Bishop James E. Kearney.

Since I arrived home on Sunday evening, I have revisited that weekend experience several times. Why? Because it excited me. It left me with a sense of joy. It brought me great peace.

I think the experience moved me as it did for two reasons that seem almost to oppose or contradict one another. One is that the events of the weekend reminded me of those realities that call us together and strengthen us as a family of believers. The other is that the same events reminded me of how we differ from one another in healthy ways.

The like or uniting elements I think in each of those parishes are: faith in God, love of the Eucharist, a sense of solidarity with sisters and brothers near and far, warm hospitality, a pride in parish life, a delight in gathering for prayer and for fun, a conviction that God is close and cares that there is always hope, spirited music, and prayerful spirit.

It is relatively easy to illustrate the great commonality that unites our parish communities. To cite the differences is more of a challenge. Let me name a few of the factors that influence the ways in which our parishes understand, express, celebrate and share their common, deeply held faith:

1) The style of past and current pastoral leadership they have experienced; 2) their size; 3) their location — urban, rural, suburban; 4) their human and material resources; 5) past experiences which have impacted them deeply for good or ill; and 6) current significant challenges and/or achievements.

There are others that I might add to the list, but I hope that these give you some idea at least of the lines of thought generated by my experience of a sampling of our parishes over the weekend.

If you were writing a column about your parish, what would you want to say? What are your experiences of parish life that strengthen your faith and make you aware of your communion of life with other parish communities? Who are the parish leaders — ordained, lay, full time or volunteer who have helped the parish grow and come to new life? Are there any ways that you would hope that your parish might strengthen its way of understanding, celebrating, sharing or living the faith? What about parish life most impels you to preach the Gospel in the way you live your life and treat other people? What can you do to help your parish move in good directions?

I hope that your summer goes well.

Peace to all.

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