Parishes need to make new alliances and support lay ministry

Friday, November 21 1997

bertheletVatican City (CCCB) — Bishop Jacques Berthelet, C.S.V., of Saint-Jean-Longueuil, in an intervention at the Synod of Bishops’ Special Assembly for America, said parishes need to be revitalized through making new alliances amongst one another and supporting lay ministries. Bishop Berthelet said that while the parish is primarily seen as the place where the sacraments are celebrated, its mission is much vaster. He said it is in the parish that the encounter with Jesus Christ primarily occurs and its principal agents are priests and their many lay collaborators.

Bishop Berthelet, a member of the Clerics of Saint Viateur, intervened in response to Nos. 26 and 39 of the Instrumentum Laboris dealing with conversion within the Church and overcoming difficulties in the intra-ecclesial communion. The bishop of the fourth largest diocese in Canada urged the Synod delegates to support and encourage all those involved in evangelization. He also suggested parishes should be inspired not only by the biblical image of the shepherd but also of those of the sower and the fisher. “The sower helps us to recall that the parish is to be unstinting in sowing the Word of God in those places and among people it is to evangelize,” he said. “The image of the fisher helps us understand the mission of the parish to go out on the high sea where there is danger and risk but also the miraculous catch.”

Bishop Berthelet said parishes have no future if closed in on themselves and so must make new alliances with neighboring parishes as well as with the surrounding neighbourhood and region, in addition to cultural and social groups. “Parishes need to become more personal and human by encouraging small interrelated ecclesial communities within themselves,” he said. “In short, they should be renewed and revitalized in every possible way.” “Ministries also need to be fine tuned and harmonized to better assist the encounter with the living Jesus Christ,” he suggested. “In many dioceses throughout the Americas priests cannot handle the task.”

Bishop Berthelet recalled that it was Pope Paul VI in his 1975 Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, No. 73, who welcomed non-ordained ministries. “The Church has been blessed with many lay women and men with the theological and pastoral formation needed to participate in pastoral work. They fulfill a true ministry, and their contributions are essential to the evangelization of youth, families and local communities.”