Pope Francis has dwelt at length on the “pastoral conversion” of the parish. In Evangelii Gaudium (EG), quoting Vatican II, he wrote, “‘Every renewal of the Church essentially consists in an increase of fidelity to her own calling […] Christ summons the Church as she goes her pilgrim way… to that continual reformation of which she always has need, in so far as she is a human institution here on earth’ (Unitatis Redintegratio, 6). […] I dream of a ‘missionary option,’ that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation. […] The parish is not an outdated institution; precisely because it possesses great flexibility; it can assume quite different contours depending on the openness and missionary creativity of the pastor and the community.”
At the beginning of his pontificate, Francis thus proposed with courage and foresight “a missionary conversion of our parish communities.” At times there is a difficulty in moving forward and facing the evolution of society. In recent years our world has undergone epochal changes, and Christians must confront them. Many of us live a hectic life, constantly on the move even when we stop, an accelerated life, fragmented into multiple activities, affected by various ideas and messages, in what has become a metropolitan fabric that today is no longer only that of cities, but has extended to towns and even small rural centers. “The speed of change, successive cultural models, the ease of movement and the speed of communication are transforming the perception of space and time. […] the Parish finds itself in a context where territorial affiliation is increasingly less evident, where places of association are multiplied and where interpersonal relationships risk being dissolved into a virtual world without any commitment or responsibility toward one’s neighbor.”
We live in a world that is more complicated than in the past and marked by cultural and religious pluralism. What can a parish do in such a transformative situation? Is it capable of dealing with the new way of life that is emerging almost everywhere? Is it capable of proclaiming the freshness and joy of the Gospel in this new situation that is becoming more widespread?