When it comes to parish life and evangelization, we need to talk about the elephant in the room: there isn’t enough time. Between celebrating the Mass, pastoral visits, marriage prep meetings, visiting the parish school, giving a talk at a Theology on Tap, and somehow finding a moment to pray, priests barely have enough time just to make it through a normal day. Having lay people on staff and in various ministries is extremely helpful, but even they can often be overworked. Plus, at the end of the day, there are certain things only a priest can do and a presence only a priest can have.
As we have heard many times, since Pope St. John Paul II’s papacy the Church has been in the midst of a New Evangelization. Out of that New Evangelization there have been an incredible number of incredible programs created that are geared towards evangelizing Catholics and non-Catholics alike. However, in our zeal to usher in a new age of evangelism like the time of the Apostles, we have placed our hope almost entirely in new things. New video series, new curriculums, new schools, new apostolates, new religious communities. In our rush towards the new, we seem to have forgotten the Church’s roots in the parish.
When they are already pressed for time, it is deeply frustrating for priests to be bombarded by offers of the next “new thing” that promises to transform their parish. As much as they may want to try it, they simply don’t have time. What if, instead of looking for a new source of inspiration for young people, for vocations, or for the “nones,” we focused on getting back to the core of our Catholic faith found only at a parish? What if we had the time to be fully present to every parishioner and accompany them along their walk in the Sacramental life?
If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that we are big proponents of using technology. But, let’s be clear. We’re not here to encourage creating the next big program, or the next big video series, or the next worldwide ministry. We’re not here to transform your parish. We’re here to encourage you to use technology to do the fundamental work of the parish, so that whether you are a priest or on the parish team, you have more time. Time to pray, time to take that desperately needed R&R (even Pope St. John Paul II made sure to make time for skiing!), time to be more present with those you serve, time to have a beer with a groom who’s on the fence about joining the Church, time for the parishioners God has placed in your care.
At the end of the day, evangelization is not about having great branding, it’s not about a great social media presence, it’s not about what programs you offer. Evangelization has always been about being present and building relationships. Jesus didn’t have YouTube or Instagram. He called his disciples by name, and simply spent time with them. We know that time is one of the largest challenges facing priests and parish teams right now, and that’s why we got into this business. We can’t transform your parish, but we are here to do whatever we can to help you have the time you need to be who God is calling you to be, so that you can be more present and build the relationships that draw people closer to Christ.