Friday, July 16, 2010

'Local church' isn't your parish — it's the archdiocese

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The musical styles ranged broadly from Twila Paris’ contemporary “How Beautiful” to the traditional Latin “Ave Verum,” but the six choirs that performed at a concert at St. Timothy in Blaine last April joined their voices for the first and final songs.

The evening was not only a sharing of music, but a sharing of parish life, said Michael Silhavy, choir director at St. William in Fridley and a member of the archdiocesan Parish Services Team.

“We weren’t in competition with one another. This was just a chance for us to hear how things are done in different parishes,” he said.

The concert was born of an ongoing collaboration be­tween several northwest metro parishes. Music staff members from each parish meet quarterly to pray together, tour one of the parishes and talk about their work. The parishes also held a choir rehearsal together in September 2009.

Silhavy expects more parishes and ministries to collaborate in similar ways as a result of the archdiocesan strategic plan for parishes and schools that Archbishop John Nienstedt will announce in October.

Collaboration helps Catholics understand that the local church is greater than their own parish or school, Silhavy said.

Beyond the parish

Canon law describes the local church, refered to as the “particular church,” (“ecclesiae particulares”) as the people of God gathered around their bishop. This is geographically expressed in a diocese or, in the case of St. Paul and Minneapolis, an archdiocese.


Throughout the planning process, members of the strategic task force appointed by Archbishop Nienstedt have emphasized that the local church is the archdiocese, not the parish.

Although the local church is the archdiocese, most Catholics’ experience of the local church is at the parish level, Silhavy said. As a parish musician who has also worked in Chicago and Duluth, he knows how valuable a smaller community is for many people.

“There’s no denying the importance of parishes where you’re baptized and married and receive the sacraments,” he said. “The problem can be if we never look beyond our parish borders and we become isolated.”

As a parish services team member who has worked for the archdiocese since 1995, Silhavy visits many parishes throughout the archdiocese. As parishes and schools look beyond their borders and form relationships with one another, they gain a wider appreciation for the gifts in other Catholic parishes, he added.

“All of these different parishes are really what [St.] Paul is talking about in that image of the Body of Christ,” Silhavy said, referring to 1 Corinthians 12. “Too often, parishes have been competitors with one another. But . . . we [should] see the need for parishes with different charisms — all of which advance the mission of the church. . . . All of them are necessary for the body.”

Supporting each other

Understanding the archdiocese as the local church means that Catholics must also consider the needs of other parishes, Silhavy said.

Already, several parishes and schools within the archdiocese support smaller or struggling parishes. Holy Name in Medina and the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis offer financial support to Ascension school and parish in Minneapolis. They also share meals, liturgies and events, and foster relationships between parishioners.

Silhavy applauds these relationships. However, parishes should also collaborate with others near them, he added, like the music ministers in the northwest metro.

Together, they can better serve and evangelize their neighborhoods and cities, Silhavy said.

“It’s true that some parishes can be a magnet, attracting people because of the music, preaching or architecture, but parishes should also serve the needs of their immediate neighborhood,” he said.

Many parishes collaborate with each other as parish clusters that share a pastor, Silhavy added. About 25 percent of parishes in the archdiocese are in a cluster arrangement, and it is possible that this percentage could increase with the Plan for Parishes.

Parishes may also share parish staff members, including liturgical ministers, youth ministry coordinators and directors of religious education.

And that is a good thing, Silhavy said.

“Collaboration, at this point and in the future, is not only necessary, but something that should be seen as intentional — something we’re called to do,” he said. “The very best way to serve the people of our own parish community is to intentionally collaborate with those from outside our parish community.” The Catholic Spirit
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