Since lay people, like all Christ’s faithful, are deputed to the apostolate by baptism and confirmation, they are bound by the general obligation and they have the right, whether as individuals or in associations, to strive so that the divine message of salvation may be known and accepted by all people throughout the world. This obligation is all the more insistent in circumstances in which only through them are people able to hear the Gospel and to know Christ. Canon 225 THE CODE OF CANON LAW
Some years ago a friend of mine was working for a small communications company which had been taken over. Within weeks he knew that all was not well. He left for another job before it failed. In his original company everyone had been clear about what it was they produced, how it was going to be marketed, and that everyone was involved. At times of pressure all were willing to work flexibly, and jobs were shared as needed. But the first management meeting of the new larger company spent most of its time discussing office furniture, and specifications of company cars which distinguished management levels. “They’ve forgotten the salesmen” my friend wailed, “but it’s the salesmen who sell the product and make the money.”
The Church, because it is an institution both human and divine, can also get into the same fix. It is all too easy to confuse the mission of the Church as the People of God, with the resources needed to carry out that mission. Let’s try and think of it in the area with which most of us will be familiar – the parish. So we sum up what the Church exists for something like this:
The parish of the Assumption of Our Lady, Lydmouth, exists for the worship of Almighty God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The People of God come together every Sunday to celebrate the Mass, when they hear the word of God and participate in the offering which Jesus Christ has made for the sins of the whole world.
The mission of the parish is the mission of all Catholic Christians:
1. CATECHESIS (Teaching & Formation) so that every believer may grow in the knowledge and love of the Scriptures, the teaching of the Church, and in prayer …
2. COMMUNION (Fellowship) so that our love and service of God and of each other may be deepened and strengthened …
3. EVANGELISATION so that the people of our parish may hear the Good News of Jesus Christ, and experiencing it among us in this parish, may turn to him and be saved for eternal life.
4. PASTORAL CARE so that we may reflect the love of God for his creation, as we serve each other and reach out to meet the needs of our local community.
In order to carry out its vocation of worship and mission each parish needs four resources:
1. Finance so that there is sufficient money and a realistic budget
2. People to exercise key roles of leadership, formation and outreach. This will include the ordained Pastor who exercises oversight in the name of the bishop, presides over the Eucharist and ensures faithfulness in teaching.
3. Buildings and accommodation appropriate to the needs and financial resources of the parish.
4. Governance (Organisation) to form and serve efficiently the work of the parish and its relationships.
I think we can see how this model of mission and resources could be taken upwards to the level of the Diocese, and downwards to the home groups and mission stations which the parish may initiate. For the Ordinariate in the UK clarity in mission and careful resourcing of all of its groups might be used to direct policy, to make decisions about growth and planting as well the more painful ones concerning closure.
One of the greatest dangers for the Church is a failure to understand that resources are there to serve mission: resources are never an end in themselves. Those of us who are former Anglicans remember the constant struggle to resist our parishes becoming building preservation societies. Sometimes we wonder about the independent evangelical churches, where mega-finance seems too high on the agenda. And what of the Catholic Church?
Here we see the danger that governance (organisation) may sometimes fail to serve the mission and become an end in itself. The Holy Father himself has begun the process of reform at the centre so that necessary institutions may more clearly, humbly and efficiently enable the saving work of the Church.