This is Part 4 of a fifteen-part series called “The Vision of an Ideal Parish” based on an article by Dr. Peter Williamson published in 2016. This series is intended to return us to our original Faith Forward Vision.

There is a certain appeal to being a missionary. Perhaps you, like me, have fantasized about going to a foreign country to preach the Gospel. St. Thérèse of Lisieux did. She said, “I would travel to every land to preach Thy name, O my Beloved…I would spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth…I would be a Missionary” (The Story of a Soul, pp. 181–182). But the truth is, if we do not have a missionary heart in our own home, workplace or parish, being a missionary anywhere else will only ever be a fantasy.

The fourth characteristic of an ideal parish is that it is missionary. “A parish cannot be a closed or inward looking community, but rather, missionary, outward-looking, welcoming and inclusive in all that it does” (Williamson). Pope Francis himself challenges parishes to become missionary.

“The parish … can assume quite different contours depending on the openness and missionary creativity of the pastor and the community. … if it proves capable of self-renewal and constant adaptivity, …it can be a community of communities… and a center of constant missionary outreach” (Evangelii Gaudium #28).

The point of the Faith Forward visioning process was to engage in “self-renewal and constant adaptation.” As Pope Francis continues,

“Mere administration can no longer be enough… the parish must be “permanently in a state of mission” (Evangelii Gaudium #22).

And indeed, Evangeli Gaudium also states,

“Missionary outreach is paradigmatic for all the Church’s activity… we need to move “from a pastoral ministry of mere conservation to a decidedly missionary pastoral ministry” (#6)

Let us as a parish fantasize anew about being missionary, not in a foreign country, but in our own parish.

“All of us are called to take part in this new missionary “going forth.” … to obey Jesus’ call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the “peripheries” (#22).

Everyone must have a missionary mindset for our parish itself to be truly missionary.

“All the members of the People of God are missionary disciples… and calls for a personal involvement from each of the baptized” (#120).

When I was a child, I used to dream about preaching native peoples like the Saints of old. But now it is time for us to have a new dream. A dream that Pope Francis shares with us too:

“I dream of a “missionary option,” that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything… parishes must become more mission-oriented” (#27).

Let us envision our parish as a true mission.

Father Jarrod Lies, Pastor