Deacon David Cross
Your parish needs you!

“Sustainability” seems to be a buzzword in much use – sustainable economy, sustainable forests, sustainable energy, writes adult formation coordinator DEACON DAVID CROSS
But I wonder how often we consider the sustainability of our parish communities and when we do, how much of our thoughts are occupied by whether we will be able to go to the Mass of our choice at the usual time?
I don’t mean this to be a criticism of anyone. After all, the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith: “Christians come together in one place for the Eucharistic assembly. At its head is Christ himself, the principal agent of the Eucharist. He is high priest of the New Covenant; it is he himself who presides invisibly over every Eucharistic celebration. It is in representing him that the bishop or priest acting in the person of Christ the head (in persona Christi capitis) presides over the assembly, speaks after the readings, receives the offerings and says the Eucharistic Prayer. All have their own active parts to play in the celebrations, each in his [or her] own way: readers, those who bring up the offerings, those who give communion and the whole people whose ‘Amen’ manifests their participation” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1348).
Indeed, the Holy Mass is central to all that we do and are. At the end of every Eucharistic celebration we are sent out or commissioned to “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord” or “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life”.
These dismissals at the end of Mass signpost us out into the world to take the joy and love of the Gospel to those who haven’t been present with us.
This is always important for us to remember, or we are in danger of our faith becoming confined within the walls of the church. I don’t think this is what our Lord intended.
However, if we are to have beautiful liturgical celebrations that fuel us to go out into the world as missionary disciples, there are some things we need to make sure are in place.
In every parish, there are a multitude of ministries that need to be filled, particularly if we want to build the sustainability of our parish community.
As well as having a parish priest, there are often myriad vacancies to be filled in order to aid the efficient functioning of the parish. Much has been said over the years about collaborative ministry yet, for some parishioners, this remains a pipe dream.
During our parish synodal consultations, people said repeatedly that they are willing to help but either haven’t been asked or it has been made clear that their service is not required.
Well, maybe it’s time for change! If we’re going to grow as a faith community across the Diocese of Middlesbrough, we need to make a purposeful decision that we will work together, collaboratively, in bringing about the Kingdom.
We need each other. We’ve always needed each other. That’s how God has created us – to be interdependent. No one person has all the answers, skills, talents or time to do all the things that need to be done.
Although Covid is still present, we are gradually getting back to business as usual, whatever that means. Some people are still cautious, and that’s OK. Others feel ready to get on with things and try to restore some normality.
It would be remiss not to mention that because of Covid, gaps in parish ministry have emerged in some parishes. Sadly, some people have succumbed to illness, while others still have lost, through their age, the ability to help in the way they used to. And when we look towards those who are keeping things afloat, these people are at the higher end of the age range.
I’m not dismissing or ungrateful for our older sisters and brothers who continue to help our parishes actively. They are much appreciated, and I know many of our priests and deacons are very grateful for the help, support and reliability of these parishioners. Maybe it’s time for those of us who are a bit younger to look at how we might be of help.
Not everything takes much time. We can all offer something. As we continue to come out of the effects of the pandemic, the need for people to help in our parishes is likely to increase and we need to begin doing something about this.
There are so many ministries – sacristan, ministers of the word and extraordinary ministers of holy communion, altar servers, visiting the sick and housebound, church cleaning, outreach to the poor and marginalised, justice and peace, prayer or Rosary group, gardening, parish secretary or admin person, flowers, caretaker/health and safety, lay funeral ministry, pastoral parish councillors, RCIA catechists, baptism, confirmation and marriage preparation, welcomers, safeguarding coordinator, finance committee, pastoral parish councillors, washing and ironing the altar linen, a social committee and so on…
Can you help? Have you got some spare time to offer to your parish priest? Ask how he can use your help. Don’t be afraid!
If you feel moved to offer your help, why not pray about it, asking God to enlighten your heart and mind so that you can understand the help that is required? Everything we do or hope to do should begin with prayer.
At Adult Formation, we have some resources and materials that both lay people and clergy may find helpful in moving towards a collaborative ministry approach. Having recently moved to the cathedral parish and for the first time, being involved in the Holy Week celebrations there, it has been wonderful to see the large team who worked so hard to ensure the cathedral was ready and in shape for the great celebration of Easter.
Without these people, it’s hard to see how the whole thing can be done.
Remember, we are all needed, we are all necessary. (Laudato Si’).
“The body is one even if formed by many members, but not all of them have the same function. The same with us: though many, we are one body in Christ, depending on one another. Let each one of us serve according to our different gifts” – Romans 12:4-6.

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