6th Sunday of Ordinary Time: Gospel – John 15:1-8

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Closing Mass for Golden Jubilee Celebration of Church of St Ignatius - Parish Goal - the Next Phase"

Preached by Fr Philip Heng, SJ at Church of St Ignatius – Singapore
on 12th February 2012

Time has flown by and looking back, we have to say that we have been specially blessed by the Lord for the abundant graces that we received during the one and a half years of Jubilee celebrations.  God has been so good to us throughout the fifty years of our Parish existence – we particularly salute our past parishioners, Jesuits priests and brothers for building a strong foundation on which we are standing at present.  God continues to pour out His blessing on us and we look forward to the coming years of graces and challenges with renewed hope.

God’s blessing during the Jubilee Year celebrations was clearly overflowing in abundance; all events had unprecedented attendance.  This was because as a parish family we responded and participated actively in the events that were organised - whether we were coming together to pray till midnight, be spiritually uplifted by the “Thankful” concert, the pilgrimage to Malacca, the “Turning Points” play on the life of St Ignatius, or enjoying the social bonding of being family through our grand parish dinner, Feast Day carnival or supporting the poor and needy through the fund raising project of my homily books, and our finale in the production of a commemorative book that is truly worthy of a Golden Jubilee edition to treasure God’s blessings of all these years.

Together with our PPC exco members and our Jesuit community at Kingsmead Hall, I would like to thank everyone for your active participation and especially those who laboured so selflessly in different committees to make our Jubilee celebration a truly memorable one.  We look forward to the coming months and years with renewed hope that the Lord will continue to empower us to live more fully in “HIS LOVE AND WAYS.”
   
What Next?  . . . where do we go from here?  After an activity packed jubilee year celebration, is it going to be an experience of an anti-climax or are we going to drift into a routine of activities in the parish? 

              

If we reflect on the abundant graces that God has given us during the Jubilee year and if we reflect on today’s Gospel, Jesus is saying to us, “As branches . . . continue to be united to me your True Vine . . . continue to bear fruit in plenty . . . never be satisfied with mediocrity and with engaging in the routine activities of life . . . after all your Parish Goal is to serve God’s Greater Glory!

In this context, after consulting our PPC exco members, I would like to launch our the next Phase of our Parish Goal programme.  After three years of implementing our Parish Goal, I feel there is a real need to move on the next Phase.

If we look at the Parish profile, we can very generally say that 15% of our parishioners are involved in one way or another in some parish activities and are in ministries.  This leaves us with 85% who are NOT active in parish activities and essentially are NON-MINISTRY parishioners.  These are those of you who come to Mass on Sundays to sustain your faith and are not active in parish activities and life.
Why is this so?  I would not like to simply categorise you pejoratively or negatively as “Sunday Catholics.” I would like to think that actually you have a very busy and hectic lifestyle.  I would like to think that actually you would want to participate more fully in our parish programme, if you are given the right encouragement and if the parish programmes and activities are engaging and interesting enough for you and your family and in the growth of your faith.
 
What is new in this next phase of our Parish goal is that, instead of our PPC exco members and me coming up with the programmes for you or simply to encourage you to join one of the forty ministries of our parish, I would like you to come up with bright ideas of how you can renew your faith and live a more active Catholic faith. 
In other words, what I am saying is that I would like you, the LAITY, to play a more active role and indeed to take greater responsibility and ownership for the growth of our Parish family.  As Parish Priest, I will provide the needed leadership that is in close consultation with our PPC exco representatives and other committees of our Parish.  Nevertheless, it is you as the LAITY as the 85% parishioners, who come here for Masses Sunday after Sunday, who are to make this happen; you are to coordinate and the see to it that the faith of our Parish family grows.

Actually, what I am saying is not totally new as this is has already been happening . . . all our Ministries, the Parish Catechetical local and CDD expat programme, the different Bible programme of different small groups and progammes like the Road to Emmaus , the ALPHA and many others are actually run by the laity.

                     

The particular emphasis that I am pushing for in this “next phase” of our Parish Goal is that you parishioners who only come to Mass on Sundays (as the 85%) are to step forward and live the spirituality of your lay vocation to take a more active role and responsibility and ownership to build our Parish family.

Remember our Parish Goal that was launched three years ago? 
“Finding God in myself, others and all situations for God’s Greater Glory.”
There are three Dimensions:

Spiritual dimension: In this dimension, we tried to highlight the importance of growing in our vocation (as a religious, priest or the lay vocation); by celebrating our Eucharist more meaningfully and reverent way, and to develop a meaningful personal prayer life.

Social Mission: In this dimension, we lived the Gospel values of Jesus’ “Preferential love for the poor, marginalised and needy.”  We have done this very successfully in so many ways through the fund raising projects within our parish community and the support of local and foreign poor and needy.  Through all these we have happily supported literally thousands of very poor and desperate people.  They are eternally grateful to us and praying for us daily because of our generosity and compassion towards them.

Community:  In this dimension, we have become more conscious of the different groups and types of needs of our parish family.  It is primarily in this third dimension of our Parish Goal that this new phase is to give special emphasis and renewal.

HOW are we going to go about this?  Let us focus on Community.

                       

First, we would like to ask you, our brothers and sisters of the 85% non-ministry parishioners, to be more active in our Parish.  For this we would first have to remind ourselves that in this “Community” dimension of Parish Goal there are the following groups:

Neighbourhood Groups: these groups have been in existence for some thirty years in our parish; to date only four out of about thirty are still alive; the rest are in our “columbarium.”

Small Christian Communities “SCC”:  There are many such groups in existence especially the different Bible groups; such groups need more encouragement and emphasis.

Expatriates: Our expat brothers and sisters are not guests of our parish; they belong to our parish family as much as we locals belong to our parish family.  We have to find ways of trying to insert them into the mainstream of our Parish family.

Evangelisation to the passive and absent Catholics of our parish family: These are people who need our special support and encouragement so that they will discover the precious and beauty of our faith that offers eternal life anew.

Poor and needy: these are our parishioners, those local poor whom we can reach out to more fully.

Next: We need to have different Parish-wide programme to address needs of parish and also to interest groups e.g. parents.

Thirdly, Ministries: As for ministries, we need to be more proactive in mutual support between ministries; we need to increase membership in ministries and be more participative in parish-wide programmes.

                    

ACTION PLAN:
Parish Census – to be carried out soon, and if feasible, even next weekend.  The reasons and benefits are quite obviously our need for basic data of our parishioners, and use the information we have for more effective communication.
We are first, appealing to each of youto please sign-up  in the place of Gathering after Mass.  This signing up is to participate in a brainstorming of creative ideas of how you think our Parish family can become more actively involved in their faith. In signing up, you are not co-opted into becoming committee members.
Just sign-up by giving us your name, mobile contact and email.  I will then call a meeting to explain further what I have just said and also give you an opportunity to clarify how you can be of help and take ownership in the building of our Parish community.

When you are satisfied with your ideas, you would then submit your ideas to me in a group report.  I will then bring it to our PPC exco meetings for follow-up.  The substance and content of these meetings will form our PPC meeting.

In conclusion, let me say that all that I have been trying to emphasise in this homily-presentation is that you are each called and challenge to live our Catholic faith more actively as lay persons, and to take up the needed responsibility and to have greater ownership of the growth of our Parish family. . . So, I hope you will stand up and be counted to make the difference in our parish family; and when this happens we will be fulfilling Jesus’ desires for us that “we will bear fruit in plenty.”

Fr Philip Heng,S.J.

 

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