Part 23 of a weekly series.
Let’s do a quick Catholic "Jeopardy!" The answer is: "To lead people to heaven."
The question is: "Why do we have a church?" And I would accept as well, "Why do we have a parish?"
That’s the heart of it. Everything we do in the church — as well as all our structures, institutions, ministries and programs — is fundamentally about saving souls and leading people to heaven. That’s it. That’s the core truth. The church — and our parishes — are the means to attain what our faith is all about.
Bishop David Zubik’s call to On Mission for The Church Alive! is fundamentally about this core mission. How do we best use our resources, our gifts, our talents, our structures to lead people to heaven? That’s what we are praying and now studying in every parish in every part of the Church of Pittsburgh.
In undertaking this prayerful study we will look at things and think about things differently. The faith never changes, but how we spread the faith and present the message of the faith are gifts ever-new to each generation. We will be looking for new ways — new models — for leading people to heaven.
New models require us to look at our structures in unfamiliar ways. To study them in a new light. The means used to serve a predominantly first-generation immigrant community in Pittsburgh 125 years ago are not the same that we would use today. And the means we use 125 years from now will be different than what we use today!
How we evangelize a well-educated population highly versed in today’s social media is not the same as in the past. Again, the Gospel doesn’t change, but how we introduce that Good News to people has to change if it is to be heard above all the noise and distractions of modern times.
The search for new models requires that once we see the vision of leading ourselves and others to heaven, we then look at our parishes and our church institutions not as historical remnants of our past to be preserved in amber. We will see the parish and church in light of what they can and must be now and for the future.
Our goal in On Mission for The Church Alive! from a practical perspective is to discover these new models in collaboration with our neighbors — the parishes within our districts and our clusters — so that we can lead people to Jesus by sharing our limited resources to achieve the ultimate prize.
New models will require us to share or leave behind some of the things that we hold on to — maybe our old church, or our new priest, or our familiar way of doing things. New models will ask us to look at parish life differently.
We will see the church not only as a place where we encounter Christ. But as a place where we become disciples of Christ; a home from where we can best share Christ with the world through education, social and outreach programs.
These new models will allow every parish to share in all that the church has to offer so that we can lead people to heaven. Because that’s the heart of it all!
Father DiNardo is vicar general-general secretary of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.