Part 31 of a series.
Bishop David Zubik has asked that each Sunday all 199 parishes in our diocese pray the Prayer for On Mission for The Church Alive! As I travel every weekend to celebrate Mass with the various parish faith communities across the northern vicariate, I’m awestruck and humbled by several simple turns of phrase that we use in that prayer to lift our hearts to the Lord.
First, we ask "May we." Joining in prayer with some of the largest and smallest communities in some of the largest and smallest church buildings, the true sense of "we" comes across. "We" are urban, suburban, rural and even forest. "We" are many different lifestyles, professions and heritages. But "we" respect one another enough to send our collective prayer heavenward.
Then, we identify the local church to which "we" belong — "the Church of Pittsburgh." Notice, it doesn’t say the Church in Pittsburgh. Many of us don’t identify with the city of Pittsburgh or may never even visit there. But we know that we belong to the "Church of Pittsburgh."
Lastly, "we" pray as the Church of Pittsburgh "in Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Greene, Lawrence and Washington counties." These are the places in which "we" live and breathe the faith every day. As we name each county, we are reminded that "we" all belong to, and are nurtured by, "the Church of Pittsburgh." "We" all matter.
Don’t just take my word for it. Listen to the inspired words of St. Paul the apostle: "As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:12-13).
When using the analogy of the human body to describe the importance of each part, Paul summarizes it by saying, "(T)here are many parts, yet one body" (1 Corinthians 12:20). "We" are the body of Christ, and every member is essential to the integrity of the body.
As "we" take the words of Paul to their logical conclusion and enter deeper into the On Mission for The Church Alive! planning process, "we" will hear and begin to work with a reality called "mission territory." Just as "we" are greater than any one parish or any one town or any one county, so too "we" are empowered to grow the church among all our neighbors.
Everyone needs to hear the Good News and be given the opportunity to believe, and "we" have a role to play in that, too. "We" are all in.
So let’s pray together:
"Father of Mercy, as we journey On Mission for The Church Alive!, endow us with your gifts of collaboration, courage and compassion. Help us to fulfill the mission of Jesus and his church through vibrant parishes and effective ministries. Raise up selfless, energetic leaders to serve the church in fidelity and with care. May we, the Church of Pittsburgh in Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Greene, Lawrence and Washington counties, be sustained and strengthened by your grace. Help us to learn Jesus, to love Jesus and to live Jesus. Hear this prayer and grant it through Jesus Christ our Lord, with the help of our dear Blessed Mother, under the mantle of her love, Amen."
Father Farrell is regional vicar of Vicariate 4. 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.