A Pastoral Direction
A pastoral direction is a goal toward which to move. It motivates and inspires people to strive for its realization. It provides those carrying it out with a mission and a sense of direction.
Developing Small Church Communities is a pastoral direction in St. Paul the Apostle Church. We seek to foster an environment in which ordinary people can connect life and faith on a regular basis.
Every period in the history of the Church has its unique challenges and opportunities. Ours is no different. The pastoral direction of developing and sustaining Small Church Communities is a response to the signs of our times. Certainly, in a large parish such as ours, and at a time in the world when Catholic values are counter cultural, the pastoral direction of Small Church Communities provides a way to deepen our sense of community, and support one another as we strive to be disciples of Jesus Christ in our daily lives.
"It seems entirely timely, therefore to form ecclesial (church) communities and groups of a size that allow for true human relationships…In such a context it will be easier to hear the word of God, to reflect on the range of human problems in the light of this word, and gradually to make responsible decisions inspired by the all embracing love of Christ."
(Pope John Paul II Ecclesia in America Papal Exhortation Feb. 4, 1999)
Consequently, it is one of my goals to establish Small Church Communities. Small Church Communities are a way of enabling a more intimate experience of Christian community. This experience is perhaps especially needed in a large parish like St. Paul's."
(Fr. Charles Klinger, Pastor's letter 2005)
The pastoral direction of Small Church Communities is implemented in the following ways in St. Paul the Apostle Church:
- By developing and sustaining ongoing Small Church Communities as an ordinary way of life in the parish.
- By providing opportunities for parishioners to get to know one another and to connect everyday life and faith
All our parish meetings/gatherings, for example, parish council meetings, parent meetings, ministry meetings of all kinds, are asked to begin their time together with fifteen minutes of prayer that includes:
- A Reading from upcoming Sunday Gospel
- A reflection question that invites us to connect the Gospel with our life
- An opportunity to share our reflections in groups of two or three
A weekly section in the bulletin entitled Connecting God's Word and our Life lists the Gospel for the upcoming Sunday and a few questions for reflection. These can be used for personal reflection or as part of prayer and faith sharing at any parish gathering. Connecting God's Word and our Life also provides an opportunity for families to reflect together and share their faith.