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The Ransomer

Following Jesus out of the storm

Fr Paschal Uche, ordained 1st of August 2020, shares his dream for the post-pandemic Church.

By

Fr Paschal Uche

August 3, 2021

Photo credit: © Mazur/cbcew.org.uk

 

Will we ever receive under both kinds again? Will we ever shake hands at the sign of peace? Will we sing our favourite hymns without masks? Or more to the point, will my local parish even remain open for much longer? Many are the questions, singular is the answer; only God knows! Perhaps now is as good a time as ever to let the little broken pieces of the post-pandemic world find their place in the bigger picture of God’s loving eternal plan.

The calming of the storm reminds us that we must look to Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of our faith.

As a newly ordained priest, I spent my first year navigating the 'new normal' of parish life. From an empty church and closed doors to mass on Facebook live. As a priest, the Church as it is, is all I know. But even for a well-trained fisherman, the calming of the storm reminds us that we, like them, must look to Jesus the pioneer and perfector of our faith.

This time has certainly given us a unique opportunity to remember who we are and what we are about. The storm around us is a providential moment for us to stop panicking and look to Jesus, at peace, sleeping in the stern of the boat, present in the tabernacle in our Churches. He is the key, the centre and the purpose of the whole of human history.

Before getting lost in the specifics, surely, we need to have a renewed focus on Jesus, for He is the light for dark and difficult times. Pope Benedict said that, 'especially in our broadly secularized social context, the parish is a beacon that radiates the light of the faith and thus responds to the deepest and truest desires of the human heart, giving meaning and hope to the lives of individuals and families.' [1]

The parish is a beacon that radiates the light of the faith and thus responds to the deepest and truest desires of the human heart.

Photo credit: Gabriella Clare Marino

In a post-pandemic parish, I would like to see us go back to basics. Fixing our eyes firmly on Jesus, then we can ask, what has the storm revealed about our faith? Do we need re-engaging, re-vitalising - in a word, re-evangelising? One obvious change may be the numbers that come back to mass. If this is the case, then fewer, more faithful members may help us to practically engage in the fruitful work of discipleship.

I for one am very keen that those parents who I prepare for their child’s baptism should subsequently play an active role in forming other parents. I have already started to ask parishioners to share their testimonies with those who are going to be confirmed and I saw the impact this had on them, simply to see someone they recognised from the parish sharing their story.

 

I am convinced that a parish where only the clergy or the catechist knows and hands on the faith is a parish that is limp, lousy and drowsy.

Whilst I will continue to support and teach, I am convinced that a parish where only the clergy or the catechist knows and hands on the faith is a parish that is limp, lousy and drowsy. In such a storm, it will not be Jesus but us who needs waking!

 

Other initiatives that we have tried include a weekly family rosary and a kid's Lectio on zoom. Every Monday, a group of 8-year-olds and their parents meet with us on zoom. We look at the Gospel for the following Sunday and then share 'the triple H'! First H: The word in our heads: their initial thoughts images etc (this can be so entertaining if nothing else!), Secondly: The word in our hearts, looking for the deeper meaning and significance. Finally, the word in our hands, looking at something practical to take away. Again, I am keen that this will be handed over to one of the parents to lead, after all, parents are the primary educators of the faith to their children.

Photo credit: Grant Whitty

 

As a first-year seminarian, I was captivated when listening to Sherry Weddell, author of, 'Forming Intentional Disciples. Somewhere in her presentation, the penny dropped for mr and I felt a moment of joy like Elizabeth at the visitation. I had a deep sense that Jesus has given every parish all it needs for true life and salvation. In the Sacraments, the teachings and yes in the pews, its people. Our joy and duty is, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to unlock the faith that may be bolted and to direct souls to salvation. Then, to help others to offer their gifts and charisms towards the building up of the local church and ultimately to steer our efforts towards the greater glory of God.

We exist to proclaim the Word that the world needs to hear. I would like to see a parish that refocuses on the Word himself, so as to be better proclaimers of the Way, the Truth and the Life.

[1] Pope Benedict XVI, 'Homily of his Holiness Benedict XVI, II Sunday of Advent, 10 December 2006'

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