By Helene Paharik
Last of a 33-part series
In the Pittsburgh Catholic, in our parishes and at diocesan gatherings, the Church of Pittsburgh has been reading, praying, studying, reflecting, training and discussing to prepare for On Mission for The Church Alive!
After broad consultation beginning this fall, the strategies for evangelization, the structures for vibrant, sustainable parishes and schools, and the well-formed leadership teams under the direction of a pastor or administrator will be implemented.
So what will it take now to move from the talk to the walk, from the theory to reality?
In this weekend’s Gospel, the disciples come to Jesus and say the crowd is hungry. To face a perceived shortage, Jesus tells them: “Get up your confidence, courage and compassion, get out among the people, get your hands dirty and bring all that you have to me.” That’s what he is telling us today.
I propose two attitudes present in this story of the feeding of the multitude that will be central to implementing On Mission for The Church Alive!
No. 1: A spirituality of abundance. This means realizing that with God we always have more than enough. We hear in the first reading this weekend that Abram gave God a tenth of everything. Do I give a tenth to God of all I have, all I am? What is it that I have that can be useful to the Catholic community of southwestern Pennsylvania?
If you are tempted to think you have nothing to give, you are wrong. I ministered to a man with advanced Lou Gehrig’s disease. No longer able to move, to feed himself or even to breathe on his own, he still wanted to give to the community. He decided to intentionally let his hair grow long to be cut for wigs for cancer patients. We all have something that is desperately needed by others.
We have seen the statistics regarding the challenges before us as a diocese: more than half of our parishes are in debt; the number of our priests is declining; many people have departed.
We can look at this and feel overwhelmed, just as the disciples did when faced with the hungry crowd. But by coming together, sharing what was available and placing it in the Lord’s hands, the needs of the hungry crowd were met.
Implementation requires each of us to contribute all we have and all we are to the mission of Jesus Christ right here and right now. A growing awareness of the super-abundance of God enables us to move to action.
No. 2: we need a commitment to community. “Ecclesial Darwinism” has no place here. We are not engaged in survival of the fittest. Just as individuals are required to reflect upon what they can give for the benefit of others, every parish and school must consider the good of their district, their vicariate, the whole diocese.
If we hold back, if we become self-centered, concerned only for ourselves, our own parish or school, we will not succeed.
The implementation of On Mission for The Church Alive! requires a spirituality of abundance and a commitment to the common good. And that spirituality and commitment define the Church of Pittsburgh!
Paharik is a diocesan associate general secretary.
Follow On Mission for The Church Alive! on Twitter at @PghChurchAlive. Have something to share about how your parish is On Mission? Use the hashtags #ChurchAlive and #OnMissionPgh.