On May 2 of this year, Pope Francis addressed 300 parish priests from around the world who participated in a gathering of priests as part of the Synod. In his address, he once again addressed the need for parishes to prioritize evangelization:

Parishes, beginning with their structures and the organization of parish life, are called to think of themselves primarily as being of service to the mission that the faithful carry out in society, in family life and the workplace, without concentrating exclusively on their own activities and their organizational needs.

But how are parishes to do this? Parish priests are a key to this becoming a reality, and without them it is basically impossible. So the Holy Father offered three suggestions that can inspire their activity and lifestyle:

1.  “Live out your specific ministerial charism in ever greater service to the varied gifts that the Spirit sows in the People of God…” 

This counsel implies entering into relationships, even friendships. How else are you to discover and serve the varied gifts and charisms of your people? Start with a handful of the most faithful, available (those who desire to avail themselves), and teachable parishioners (or staff!). Invite yourself over to their house, get to know them, become friends. Then invite some of them to grow together with you into mission community to accompany each other into a lifestyle of discipleship and apostolate. “[I]n this way you will bring to light many hidden treasures and feel less alone… [and] you will experience the joy of being true fathers…”


2. “Learn to practice the art of communal discernment…” 

If you develop true mission community with trusted parishioners and staff who are both prayerful and apostolic, you will be able to lean on them for their advice and opinions. You will grow into the practice of frequent “conversation in the Spirit,” wherein you will frequently and regularly update each other on what’s going on in the lives of parishioners and the broader community. And as a mission community, you’ll figure out how to grow the mustard seed you’ve started in number one above.


3. “Base everything you do in a spirit of sharing and fraternity… We cannot be authentic fathers unless we are first sons and brothers. And we cannot foster communion and participation in the communities entrusted to our care unless, before all else, we love out those realities among ourselves.” 

Loneliness leads both to lukewarmness and emotional and physical deterioration. But true fraternal community fosters spiritual, emotional, and physical health. Find two or three of your brother priests who you want to get together with at least monthly, and discuss life, growth, and mission. Encourage and support each other in these areas and hold each other accountable. And have fun too! You’ll then develop ways to instigate and inspire this type of community among your staff and your flock.


(All quotes taken from Letter of The Holy Father Francis to Parish Priests, May 2, 2024.)


Peter Andrastek is a Ministry Consultant at the Evangelical Catholic. The Evangelical Catholic’s mission is to equip Catholics to live out the Great Commission. Learn more.


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