The first time Jesus sees his apostles after rising from the dead, he gives them a mission –“As the Father sent me, so I send you.” – they are sent to continue the mission Jesus received from his Father.
As disciples of Jesus, like the apostles we are called and sent to continue the mission of Jesus: to proclaim the good news that God is our Father, that he is close to us; to invite others to be part of his family through baptism; to alleviate the needs of the poor, to accompany those who suffer.
Each of us is called to carry on the mission of Jesus – but each in a different way, based on our circumstances, talents and God’s plan. This is also true of a parish – there are many things we could do as a parish, but we can’t do all of them well – we need to ask ourselves HOW we as St. Michael’s are called to carry on the mission of Jesus here in Oakville.
These are questions we are beginning to ask in our parish council – and we hope to create a vision and plan for the future. It is too early in the process to say what the final outcome will be. However, there is one obvious thing that makes our parish different, something that will no doubt be part of our plan for the future – the fact that we are bilingual. We offer pastoral care in both English and Spanish.
Bishop Crosby named us a bilingual parish in June 2013 – almost two years ago. But we had been offering Mass in Spanish long before that. Now we are trying to work as “one parish” with one “heart and soul” as the early Christians are described in our reading from the acts of the apostles today. We are working together in our parish councils, we celebrated major feasts together with bilingual Masses, this year we begun outreach to assist newcomers to Canada no matter what language they speak. I am very proud of the work we are doing and I hope you are proud too!
Nevertheless, every once in awhile I hear some grumblings about the fact we are a bilingual parish. I understand that it can be frustrating coming to Mass and not understanding some of the readings. Having to offer services in both languages means I am more busy and perhaps am paying less attention to certain groups and persons. Our meeting rooms are booked up quicker. But these challenges would exist in any active parish – it just happens to be we are active in two different languages. Thank God that we have an active parish!
There are small sacrifices we need to make, but I hope that you are clear that by these sacrifices we are continuing the work of Jesus. New parishioners tell me “we have no family in Canada, your church is our family” “We were not religious before we came to Canada – we found Jesus here at St. Michael’s. Our parish is a place where they can pray in their own language, a place where they feel at home in a strange land. I wish to thank our St. Vincent de Paul society for assisting those who have recently arrived and are in need of furniture. Our parish is growing and each new member shares with us their joy, piety and spirituality. Each new member is another hand to assist in our apostolates. Together we are continuing the mission of Jesus. St. Michael’s is doing a special work that no one else in our area is doing!
Our first reading says that the early Christians were one heart and soul. How can we help St. Michael’s parish move forward as one heart and one soul?
First – pray for our parish – our parishioners, our groups and apostolates, your pastor – that the Lord will bless us and give fruit to our efforts.
Second – participate in parish events and celebrations – get to know and understand one another so as to serve the Lord together. I think some of our parishioners are afraid of an eventual “takeover” that St. Michael’s will eventually become a “Spanish Only Parish.” I don’t think that is the bishop’s plan and it certainly is not my plan it will only happen if you stop participating.
Third – don’t participate in grumbling and gossip – this only creates mistrust and disunity. If you have some advice about how our parish can be better –tell us directly.
Fourth. consider participating in our ministry to welcome newcomers. Recently many of our parishioners have requested help improving their English – Perhaps some are willing to be conversation partners or form study clubs.
Today is Divine Mercy Sunday. A work of mercy is to welcome the stranger – Our parish is doing a beautiful job of welcoming immigrants and creating a spiritual home for them. Let us move forward with one heart and soul carrying out this special mission the bishop has entrusted to us.