by Fr. James Kroeger, MM
IN celebrating 2017 as the “Year of the Parish as a Communion of Communities,” the Philippines Bishops note that “we are challenged to more deeply discern not only the structures of governance of our dioceses and parishes but also of the quality of faith life in the parish, the fellowship, belongingness, and participation experienced by its members.” We must constantly focus on “the building of a parish that is truly a faith community immersed in the lives of its people.”
In the Philippines the vision of the Church as communion is today “finding expression in one ecclesial movement that is the movement to foster Basic Ecclesial Communities” (PCP-II 137). “Usually emerging at the grassroots, Basic Ecclesial Communities consciously strive to integrate their faith and their daily life. They are guided and encouraged by regular catechesis. Poverty and their faith urge their members towards solidarity with one another, action for justice, and towards a vibrant celebration of life in the liturgy” (PCP-II 139). We ask: “How can we all work at renewing our parish communities to better manifest Christ”?
Parish Renewal and Mother Mary. One concrete way of fostering community in our parishes is to turn to our Mother, the Blessed Virgin. As we continue to celebrate the “Year of the Parish,” one recalls that 2017 is the also the centennial year of the apparition of Our Lady to three children in Fatima. Our Bishops assert that “the message of Fatima still rings clearly and strongly for us. If we dream of Church renewal, let us return to prayer, let us receive her Son in Holy Communion and let us offer reparation for our sin.” By these means we can “pursue the dream to make every parish community a family of families and a communion of communities.”
During the months of May to October 2017, Catholics all over the world, led by Pope Francis, will recall and celebrate the centenary of the six apparitions of Our Blessed Mother to the “three children of Fatima.” Thus, the Philippine Bishops note, “as we in the Philippines celebrate our parishes as communion of communities, we will also turn with prayer and devotion, deeper reflection and rededication to the Fatima Message of Our Lady.” We need to “put into practice what Fatima asks of us today, so we can renew and reinvigorate our parishes in the Philippines.”
Pope Francis Speaks on Mary. As we seek to renew our parishes, we can profit from some profound insights from Pope Francis; he calls Mary the “Mother of Evangelization.” “With the Holy Spirit, Mary is always present in the midst of the people. She joined the disciples in praying for the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:14) and thus made possible the missionary outburst which took place on Pentecost. She is the Mother of the Church which evangelizes” (Evangelii Gaudium 284).
“There is a Marian ‘style’ to the Church’s work of evangelization. Whenever we look to Mary, we come to believe once again in the revolutionary nature of love and tenderness. In her we see that humility and tenderness are not virtues of the weak but of the strong, who need not treat others poorly in order to feel important themselves” (EG 288).
“Mary is able to recognize the traces of God’s Spirit in events great and small…. She is the woman of prayer and work in Nazareth, and she is also Our Lady of Help, who sets out from her town ‘with haste’ (Lk 1:39) to be of service to others. This interplay of justice and tenderness, of contemplation and concern for others, is what makes the ecclesial community look to Mary as a model of evangelization. We implore her maternal intercession that the Church [and our own parish] may become a home for many people, a mother for all peoples, and that the way may be opened to the birth of a new world” (EG 288).