Role of the Parish
The parish is called to be driven by its outward mission to the world, rather than an internal focus on maintenance. It must form and equip the laity for their role of witnessing and sharing their faith in the world, and be particularly attentive to welcoming seekers.
Mission, Not Maintenance
Many parishes remain stuck in an internal maintenance mindset, and may have forgotten the very purpose for all the activities it performs.
These goals assume that an evangelizing spirit will touch every dimension of Catholic parish life.... Every element of the parish must respond to the evangelical imperative—priests and religious, lay persons, staff, ministers, organizations, social clubs, parochial schools, and parish religious education programs. Otherwise, evangelization will be something a few people in the parish see as their ministry— rather than the reason for the parish’s existence and the objective of every ministry in the parish.
Go And Make Disciples: A National Plan and Strategy for Catholic Evangelization in the United States, 12
It is the responsibility of the parish community and its leadership to ensure that the faith it teaches, preaches, and celebrates is alive and that it is a true sign, for all who come in contact with it, that this truly is the living Body of Christ.
National Directory for Catechesis, 29C
We applaud these efforts and urge our parishes to do even more. Our culture often suggests that religion is a private matter, to be tolerated as long as it is detached from our lives as workers and citizens. Catholic men and women look to our parishes to find the support, tools and concrete help they need to resist this tendency and instead proclaim Christ's love, justice and peace in everything they do.
The Church's pastoral ministry exists to sustain the work of the Gospel. One way it does this is by nourishing and strengthening lay men and women in their calling and identity as people of faith, as contributors to the life and work of the Church, and as disciples whose mission is to the world. To grow in discipleship throughout life, all believers need and are called to build vibrant parish and diocesan communities of faith and service.
Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us:
A Pastoral Plan for Adult Faith Formation in the United States, 3
Because the parish, through its pastor and members, is typically the first contact that returning Catholics have with the institutional Church, “it is the responsibility of both pastors and laity to ensure that those doors are always open.” Evangelization must remain rooted in the parish. It is in the parish that one becomes engaged with the Church community, learns how to become a disciple of Christ, is nurtured by Scripture, is nourished by the sacraments, and ultimately becomes an evangelizer. Successful evangelization and catechetical initiatives must be focused on the parish and parish life. The parish is where the faith is passed down, lived, and sustained for all members of the Body of Christ, most especially for those members seeking to return.
Disciples Called to Witness: The New Evangelization
Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, U.S. Bishops
Parishes are essential sources of support and encouragement for Christian discipleship. At their best, parishes help believers prepare and go forth to live the Gospel in everything we do. The Sunday liturgy sends us forth to renew the earth and build up God's kingdom of justice and peace. We encourage our pastors and preachers to listen to their parishioners on the challenges of their daily lives and help bring the insight of the Gospel and the principles of Catholic teaching to these experiences. We affirm prayer and worship which help believers apply the Gospel to everyday situations.
The measure of the Church's organized social ministry is not simply the teaching shared, the services offered, the actions taken, but also the support and challenge provided for men and women as they seek to live the Gospel in the world. Our community of faith needs to share its social teaching more clearly and comprehensively so that its principles can help shape the choices and actions of Catholics. Catholics also need to learn and further explore the links between faith and life, theology and ethics, what we believe and how we act every day. Catholics need to support one another as we take up these difficult tasks, helping each other to have the courage of our convictions, to stand up for what we believe and to practice in our own lives what the Scriptures proclaim.