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What makes A Parish?

Not long ago on one of the social media platforms someone posted a picture of a Catholic Parish. The person’s opinion was less than flattering. The author took issue with the style and presentation of how the parish looked. Since it clearly did not fit their view of what a parish should be. I’ve seen these kinds of posts before. However in this case something really bothered me so I decided to reflect on this. What makes a good parish? Is it the beauty of the building itself. Or is it something else all together.

Every year when I’m working on the Lego Church Project. I have a style of building that I have in mind as I lay down the bricks. Something that seeks out to restore a level of beauty that has been muted over the years. Much like my own work however. How a parish is set up and looks is not the full story. As someone who has been to many parishes. A common thread comes to mind with each one: The parishes are true communities.

The parishes that seem to be doing well on many levels are the ones who put a focus on serving those around them. Answering God’s call to help their neighbor. They are open to welcoming everyone they come across and will do what they can for many in need. Those parishes are the ones going out into the world and sharing why they love Christ and the church in the actions they take part in. Not the ones spending endless hours debating which form of the Mass they prefer. Not blasting the trumpets over they they want to do. The are simply going out in the world and sharing the Gospel in words and actions. The Mass becomes the focal point of the community.

I think that something that should be taken into consideration is this: While it is nice to see some parishes bring back something that we feel like we have lost. Such as remodeling the churches to make them more beautiful. It is also just as important to focus on turning our parishes into communities that foster a desire to grow in our faith. Neighbor helping neighbor. If you don’t have that kind of mind at the start. Then how the parish design looks doesn't really matter. A parish can be the most beautiful place in the world and still come across as cold, empty and not inviting. Lacking any feeling of warmth that a parish should have. This call to be a community has been pushed by the wayside over the years and yet in the early days of the church, coming together as a community, was common and encouraged. We really need to get back to that kind of thinking. Perhaps as we heading to our time of prayer and reflection. We can pray about how we can help our own parishes focus on becoming better communities.

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