As the Dean of this Deanery, and as a Pastor who likes to travel hither and yon to help with confessions, I have concluded that one of the greatest toxins we have in our Church today is Parochialism. The community I live in now is smaller than my former residence, yet we have three (and had four) parishes. The two older parishes struggle financially as do the catholic schools, and we are fairly cozy out here. The suggestion that places combine or share falls on deaf ears.
At a Deanery meeting last week we had spoken about the combination of some youth activities. One of the obstacles is that in many of the rural areas most towns are football rivals. Some families, and their pastors, are hesitant in trying to attempt to draw the youth together.
One of the many great things that came out of the Second Vatican Council was an understanding that the Church is a community of faith. The Eucharist we celebrate is a memorial of the Paschal Mystery which draws all men and women into one communion. As such the needs and concerns of any part of Body of Christ, is a concern of the whole Body. More so it is the foundational obligation of the entire unity to nurture and nourish our gifts so as to proclaim the Good News.
Now there are pockets where the Church does come together to minister and foster an understanding of the Kingdom of God. In some locales the catholic school, ministry to the poor or sick, are accomplished by a group of parishes with that vision of having a communion in the Body of Christ. The recent text, Rebuilt, proposes a radical look at how to do 'Church' well. Part of the process is to break down the barriers within and outside of the parish community.
When I was in DeKalb I had envisioned a Easter Sunday Mass at Northern Illinois University. I could see combining the choirs, liturgical roles, use lots of smells and bells, and divide up the collection at the end. Folks smiled when I suggested it, but that is as much of a response I received. So we remained crowed in our own churches.
The ministry of Jesus sees him going from place to place, sharing the Good News in very different scenarios. The Kingdom was proclaimed and the resurrection was revealed. We could follow his pattern of ministry carefully and become less focused on "my space" and my ministry" and center on making present the Good New. If we never engage with and for each other, the parochial toxins will kill us.