Posted by: Thomas Richard | June 9, 2012

Mission and Ministry: The World Outside the Parish

An article recently published in Homiletic and Pastoral Review is so good, so to the point, and so needed today, that I wanted to refer any readers of this blog to visit the HPR magazine and read Growing in Love of the Lay Life: Evangelizing Martyrs, by Deacon James Keating, Ph.D.  Included in his article is this powerful quote from Cardinal Francis E. George (The Difference God Makes, p. 180):

The greatest failure of the post-Vatican II church is the failure to call forth and to form a laity engaged in the world politically, economically, culturally and socially, on faith’s terms rather than on the world’s terms. If … we paid less attention to ministries … and more on mission … then we might recapture the sense of what should be genuinely new as a result of the Council.

I think it is fair to say that many parishes today would have a very hard time distinguishing between “mission” and “ministry.”  For many – many – the whole mission is to provide ministry.  They see the mission of the Church as local parishes providing ministries for the Catholics in the pews, with possible outreaches here and there of service to the poor in material things (food, clothing, shelter).  But as for the overriding mission that Jesus commanded to His Church, the mission that Paul VI identified as the very purpose of the Church, that mission to evangelize – to make disciples of all the nations – that mission often gets scant attention.

The destiny of the human souls outside of the local parish on a given Sunday – the souls driving by on the way to the beach, or the video store, or the soccer field, or wherever – are souls for whom Jesus went to the Cross.  These are the souls that deserve our hearts, our passion, our ministry – they are our mission.  The Church exists to evangelize, as Paul VI taught us.  The New Evangelization awaits as did the Old Evangelization, and the mission remains as Jesus commanded it: make disciples.  When will the mission commanded to the Church become the actual work of the parishes?  We’re getting off to a rather slow start.


  1. Thanks, Thomas, for posting the article from Dcn. Keating. It is very well written and does describe most parishes. People may joke about the young guys in the white shirts and black ties riding bicycles through their neighborhoods, BUT they are the ones who are evangelizing and that is why the Mormon Church is GROWING! It seems that Catholics have always been weak in their evangelical skills. We tend to want to keep the Church for ourselves. But, Jesus gave the Great Commission! Pope John Paul II used to say “It’s not enough just to know Jesus; we must be willing to introduce him to others as well”!

    • Hello Theresa –

      I was struck by your comment, “We want to keep the Church for ourselves.” May the Lord have mercy on us! I hope that the reason is something different, because such a selfish desire would be a grave moral failure indeed. Such a desire, to “keep the Church for ourselves” reminds me of a gravely disordered marriage, in which the spouses want only the pleasures to be taken from one another without the bother of children demanding their time and money. Such a Church, such a marriage, would be far from the intention of the Lord in either marriage or Church.

      “The church” (lower case “c” intentionally used) can be kept a private club, just as a “marriage” can be kept by intention sterile and barren – but faith cannot remain sterile, nor can holy love! To the extent that our faith is alive and our holy love aflame, we will bear fruit! May the Lord kindle in us the fire of His love.


  2. Dear Thomas,

    The article by Deacon Keating expresses well both the need to evangelize and re-evangelize within the Church. We cannot give what we do not have, and so our effort to bring Christ to the world begins within and extends outward. The themes to ponder from Pope John Paul II’s book, The Lay Members of Christ’s Faithful were well chosen, especially this one:

    • Communion in the Church leads to Mission in the World. “Communion and mission are profoundly connected with each other. They interpenetrate and mutually imply each other, to the point that communion represents both the source and the fruit of mission: communion gives rise to mission, and mission is accomplished in communion. Pastors know … that it is their exalted office to be shepherds of the lay faithful, and also to recognize the latter’s services and charisms, that all, according to their proper roles, may cooperate in this common undertaking with one heart” (§32).

    Yes, we may have gotten off to a “slow start” as you mentioned, but today is not too late to begin. St. Francis of Assisi to whom Jesus said, “Rebuild my Church”, after years of preaching and witnessing, told his brothers close to the end of his life, “Brothers, let us at last begin!” The saints have all known the truth that every day can be a new beginning.

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