LAITY in the Westminster diocese have been asked to respond to three questions concerned with helping to make the Church a caring family:
• To what extent is your parish, deanery, etc, a family in which people feel at home, and is it open to the needs of the local community?
• What immediate suggestions do you have for increasing the life of your parish, deanery, group or organisation?
• Which aspect out of the Christian life should the bishops deal with in the next pastoral paper?
To help to give a practical basis for these questions the bishops have offered a series of points for discussion these include: How can you break down any divisions or jealousies in your community?
Extracts from Prayer and Community, the diocese's pastoral paper
Do you give a real and lasting welcome to all newcomers and to immigrants?
Do you provide a focal point for different groups to meet, recognising their age or special interests and bringing them into the community?
Do you leave them as selfcontained, isolated groups — especially people of different cultures and beliefs?
How do you balance concern for local interests against the wider concerns of the Third World and justice and peace? Are you involved in local, area and national politics, trade unions, professional bodies? How can you become more involved?
This should lead us to ask — how can more lay people be involved in the life of the Church? Various deanery and area councils have talked about this. What do you think? What can you do?
Special ministries have developed recently in the Church. For example a number of parishes have permanent deacons who are married men. Others have lay people and religious brothers and sisters, specially commissioned to give Holy Communion to the sick and housebound.
We will have to make greater use of religious and laity in the parishes, for example, by lay people or sisters leading devotions and prayers in the parish church.
The bishops could specially appoint or commission people for such duties, when they make a visitation to the parish, to give official recognition to those who help the parish in these ways. What are the problems and advantages of this new development in the life of the church?
Lay people and sisters have so much to give to the parish. How can they be drawn into the parish more? Is there a need for special training?
If so what kind of training do you feel is necessary? Who would pay for this training? Should lay people and sisters sometimes be paid for the work they do in the parishes? Today, many people feel a great desire to serve those in need. This is particularly true of young people, many of whom face the horror of unemployment. Could such people be commissioned by the parish, deanery or diocese to give particular service to the community? How would they be supported?
Consultation in the parish, deanery and diocese, is important since we all share a responsibility in the church and have something to offer. We feel that each area of the diocese should work out the form best suited to its own needs. But consultation must be real, with effective communication, with real decision making.
At this time it would seem wiser not to have a permanent Diocesan Pastoral Council for lay people and priests together, but to have in each area of the diocese periodic Pastoral Conferences, as we will be having in May and June this year. Do you agree?
Do you have a parish council? This can be a very good way of sharing the work of the parish. But it is important to ask what is a parish council. Is it to advise the priest or to take the decisions with him?