National Catholic Register

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From Home Field to Mission Field

BY Matthew Warner

| Posted 9/20/10 at 8:30 AM

 

Is your parish on a mission?

From the mid 1800s to the early 1900s, Catholic immigrants poured into the United States. These newly arrived Catholics were often met with challenging working conditions, anti-Catholicism, discrimination and a largely ungoverned, unorganized and unfamiliar society. Naturally, they tended to stick together. They needed each other. They needed the familiarity. They needed their community - their parish, not only for the sacraments, but for the very practical purpose of survival.

Things are different now. I’m not sure our parishes have adapted all that well.

In the 1500s the Church sent out missionaries to the New World. They ventured forth bravely into totally unknown territory. They were frequently met with hostility, unbelievable challenges and the uncomfortably unfamiliar. There was no home-base nearby. America, today, is more like this: More suited for missionaries than maintenance men.

The parish model that worked hundreds of years ago in a homogeneously Catholic European country may not work well here. A parish model that worked great in New England in the 1900s, may be quite useless today.

America is one of the biggest mission fields in the world. The reason so many other religious groups and denominations are growing is in part because they treat it that way. They have the advantage of not having any old expired habits left over from the last century. But they also don’t have the wisdom compounded from the centuries before that. We just have to use it.

The Church has usually fared extremely well in the mission field. We just need to realize we’re in one.

What are we doing right with how we run our parishes in modern-day America?  What are we doing wrong?