Friday, November 25, 2005

The Hireling Report #23

City archdiocese aiming for more lay-member involvement
Saturday, November 19, 2005

By John Longhurst, Winnipeg Free Press

MORE involvement by lay members, a desire to renew the liturgy, and an emphasis on community building, education and stewardship -- these are the goals for the next 10 years for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Winnipeg, as listed in the new pastoral vision from Archbishop James Weisgerber.

The pastoral vision, which was prepared on the occasion of the archdiocese's 90th anniversary, was issued to the archdiocese's 155,000 members in 94 urban and rural parishes and missions in late October.

For Weisgerber, the new vision is a way to "develop a more cohesive plan" for the churches in his care, and a way to implement the findings of the second Vatican Council, which took place from 1962-65.

"It takes about 100 years for the church to receive the teaching of a council," he says, adding that the council proposed a "revolutionary shift" away from the clergy being in charge, doing everything, and members being only followers.

"There is no distinction between clergy and lay people," Weisgerber says. "We are all one in Christ. Everyone is empowered, everyone has gifts to share."

One area where Weisgerber hopes to see more lay people involved is by leading services. "By the way we pray together we show what we believe -- that all the people are involved, not just the priest at the front," he says. For Roman Catholics, a church service is "not what somebody else does for them," but something that "everyone can participate in."

Along with involving more people in leading services, Weisgerber says the liturgy itself needs to be revised or repackaged. Although the "substance of the ancient faith" hasn't changed, it needs to be presented "in words, terms and symbols that people understand today," he says. "We need to find some new forms, and that will take some real creativity."

He acknowledges that this is a balancing act, since there will be those "who want to hang on" to the traditional way of doing the liturgy, while there will be others who "want to go even further."

To help churches meet this challenge, the archdiocese is holding workshops for musicians about their role in leading services, and also wants to help people develop skills for reading the scriptures. "We want to give good attention to the word of God," he says. "For that, we need to develop readers."

In the area of education, Weisgerber says that "faith formation" for adults, as well as children, is vital. "In a world that is very secularized, we have to know why we believe."

Stewardship is also vital for a healthy church for Weisgerber, but he says it's about more than just money. "It's about time, treasure and talents," he says. "Money is the easiest thing to give; our hearts and our time are the real gifts we have to share. We are asking for the same thing Jesus asks for -- their hearts."

With regard to building community, the church needs to emphasize that Christianity "is not just a relationship with God, but with one another," he says, adding that many Roman Catholics have an individualistic faith. "It's not just you and God, but you, others and God," he says. "We need to have a concern for others."

New vision

Cathy Laviolette, pastoral administrator for St. Michael's Parish in Gimli, likes how the new vision de-emphasizes distinctions between clergy and lay people. "I love that part of the vision," she says, adding that although she has a good team of lay people working with her, there are many more people in the parish "who have gifts to bring."

Father Kevin Smith, pastor of the Sacred Heart Parish in Roblin, also likes the new vision's emphasis on lay involvement. The priorities are "exactly the things we need in our parish."

Like Laviolette, Smith also has a cadre of volunteers helping him in the parish. But, he says, "we can't have the same volunteers doing the work all the time. We need to call many more people into sharing the gifts they have."

Brenda Evans, of Winnipeg's St. John Brebeuf parish, is glad to see more attention being paid to the liturgy and community building. At a time when it's "increasingly hard to attract people to church, we need to make the liturgy relevant for today," she says. "Church should be so important that people want to be there. It should be place where they went in hungry and came out full, where they feel supported and cared for."

Implementing this new vision of a vibrant, worshipping community will be a big task, Weisgerber says: "Creating communion demands trust in the Lord and in one another," he says. "It demands courage, patience, forgiveness and hope... the gifts, energy and goodwill of all members of our community are needed."


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