There are few pertinent questions that may guide our search and arouse our interest for further development. What is a parish? How is it related to the diocese and the universal church? What do you think your parish stands for? What is your parish known for? How much of a sense of community is there in your parish? In what ways do you experience your fellow parishioners as church? As a parishioner, to what degree does the care and trust, you experience through your parish translate into the rest of your relationships in life? How does your parish relate to its neighbouring parishes? The responses one receives in these questions may probably reveal the depth or model of parish administration in place in one's parish.
The issue before us reads Parish Administration and Accountability: Parameter for evaluating various arms of government in Nigeria. I will attempt to share my understanding however little about parish administration and accountability. I may not do justice to the second part of this assignment. But the materials you may find in the lines that follow may assist you to do the evaluation yourself. While doing this 1 have tried to express myself as clearly as I witness and encounter them as a pastor and in our various Catholic parishes. My approach is pastoral, reaching out to the least significant members of our parishes. Its aim and objective is to refresh your memories, to enlighten, educate, deepen our understanding, and to draw you a step further to Jesus Christ, the Head and sole administrator of the Church and springboard of parish life. It is hoped that this work may spur you on not only wanting to be a better pastor but to search deeper and draw some meaning for yourselves and applying same on your various and diverse Christian communities - to build up the church.
2. The Catholic Parish
The parish is an important organ in the life of the Catholic Church. It is, indeed, a vital element in the overall administrative structure of the Church. In fact it is the centre where the Catholic Church meets the world. For average Catholics the parish is the focal point of faith, growth and celebration. For most Catholics it is what they identify as the "church". And for many believers at the grass root level, what happens at Vatican, and what the pope or the bishops do or say is not as relevant to them as their own faith experiences, the events and the developments they witness in their own local parishes. The fact is that though the central offices or headquarters are by no means necessary as well as significant, they are quite remote to lead them on in their day-to-day Christian life and witnessing. That may partly explain why some leaders of some pious and religious associations in the parishes seem to have more listening voices than their pastors.
When we say "parish", everybody seems to know what it is all about. But when pushed further to explain one often meets disappointing responses. This work does not wish to suffer the same presumption. Let us therefore assist our understanding by clearing the meaning of the word: parish. Parish for many Catholics means the area where priest(s) live along with the central place where the people assemble on Sundays for worship or gather for fellowship on weekdays. Some others flashing back identify the parish as the area where the missionaries built some houses for the purposes of worship (church), education (school) and medication (dispensaries/hospitals). This view of the term "parish" is glaring when one listens to the parishioners when they say: ka m gaa parish (let me go to the parish) or O gara parish (he/she went to the parish). All this refers only to the parish centre
As early as the second century of Christianity, the local Christian communities were already labelled as parishes. The earliest word used for parish was the Greek noun paroikia, which is derived from the verb paroikein, which means to dwell beside (para- beside, oikos - house) Paroikia therefore means neighbourhood. It refers to "those living near or beside" one another. It refers to people living in the same neighbourhood. On a secondary level parage refers to "residents' aliens, settled foreigners, non-native sojourners "11 This is the sense we find it in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament Scriptures. It carries the sense of persons in exile, like the Israelites in the land of Egypt (Ex. 2:22). It also refers to aliens temporarily dwelling in a foreign land, such as those who have here no lasting city, but seek the one that is yet to come: "There is no permanent city for us here [on earth]", says the author of the letter to the Hebrews, "we are looking for the one which is yet to be [heaven]" (Heb.13: 14). The Christian writers employed this secondary sense for the local congregations of believers, in the words of James A. Coriden, "It was a spiritual or mystical notion that described the communities of those whose true homeland was in heaven, who were only pilgrims here on earth."22 Later paroikia was transposed to the individual communities/churches living in the world. The term soon became an accepted word for the individual, local communities within the larger Church. It then conveyed the sense of a people, a community, of God's holy people (1 Pet. 2:9-10).
It was not until the fourth century that paroikia found itself officially in the acts of early Church Councils employed for that purpose. The Church witnessed a dramatic rapid growth and spread remarkably after the Peace of Constcmtine (c.312 AD). It was at this time that Latin joined, and was soon to overtake, Greek as official language of the Church Hence paroecia, a Latin rendering of the Greek paroikia, was used to describe the communities. This Latin word paroecia had a less fixed and a more fluid meaning. As a matter of fact paroecia and dioceses were interchangeably used for a long time. Sometimes they referred to a local church led by a presbyter (elder = priest), and at other times they referred to a cluster of local churches with a bishop as its head.
It must be admitted, however, that a uniform use of the term took off from the sixth century. Then the local communities maintained the descriptive term, parishes, while die larger groupings of local churches with a defined territory and a bishop as its head and overseer acquired the administrative title diocese (or eparches in the Eastern churches). Today the Church uses parish to mean a subdivision of a diocese with a clear marked geographical boundary that has its own pastor (parish priest), and enjoys a certain degree of autonomy under the jurisdiction of the Local Ordinary - the bishop (cf. CC 374; 515). It is a community of the Christian faithful stably constituted in a particular church whose pastoral care is entrusted to a pastor – parochus (a canonically appointed parish priest).
The structure "of a parish can be seen from external and internal perspectives. Externally seen, one may be speaking of the geographical size, the area beyond which the parish may be said to be crossing boundary. The internal structure of a parish, on the other hand, does not enjoy a clear-cut description as its external structure. It is often accepted out of what the people are accustomed to seeing as normative. It has remained a source of major tensions, frictions, antagonisms and conflicts in the church. Where there is no problem, it does not even call to question. 3ut where one meets problems, or frictions in daily works, then comes the question about whose function it is to handle this or that. The debate that goes with this is beyond the task of this paper.
Be that as it may, let me quickly note that every parish is a manifestation of the whole Church. The parish makes the universal Church visible, tangible, perceptible, and enables it to realise its goal and mission. In a word the parish represents (re-presents), makes present the whole Church. The latter is really present especially within the spectrum of the congregation of the faithful with its pastor around the table of the Lord on Sundays This is the mind of the Vatican II Council when it states that:
This church of Christ is really present in all legitimately organized local groups of the faithful which, united with their pastors, arc also called churches in the New Testament. For these arc in fact, in their own localities, the new people called by God, in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction (sec 1Thcss. 1:5). In them the faithful are gathered together by the preaching of the Gospel of Christ, and the mystery of the Lord's Supper is celebrated "so that, by means of the flesh and blood of the Lord the whole brotherhood and sisterhood of the body may be welded together,"... In these communities, though they may often be small and poor, or dispersed. Christ is present through whose power and influence the one, holy catholic and apostolic church is constituted.3
In other words the parish is church in every sense. Christ is fully present there in the word, in the sacraments, in the fellowship, m grace and in charity. The parish carries within itself the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of the Church of Christ.
The coming into being of the local churches (parishes) is the work of the Holy Spirit. Through baptism the Holy Spirit begets and gathers all those who believe in Jesus Christ into one People of God. Since parishes are locally situated they are bound to dialogue with their social environment, with human communities around them, and therefore must risk religious dialogue and ecumenical co-operation with non-Christian and other Christian groups respectively.
There are two main inseparable arms of a parish: the parishioners (the laity) and the pastor (the parish priest) - the caretaker and steward of the parish under the directive of the Local Ordinary.
The word "lay" often invokes the idea of "unskilled", non-professional, or amateur We hear people say: "I am a layperson in medical science"; "I am only speaking as a layman on this issue"; "I have merely a layman's knowledge in law, in computer science." In this popular usage, it means one is an amateur or one has little or smattering idea on the issue at stake as distinct from a professional. Shortly before 1438 the term lay was used to mean "non-clerical" or non-professional. It stems from the Greek word laikos (of the people), which comes from laos (people). From here comes the word laity, which means people
In the Christian parlance, the word "laity" refers to the "prototype" members of the People of God. Each member has been divinely called and chosen with a specific calling and mission. They have the divine mandate to sanctify themselves as well as the world (their proper place) through their ordinary work and life so that their presence, friendship, and example can lead others around them to God. Vatican 11 Council uses the term laity to mean all the faithful except those in holy Orders and those who belong to a religious state approved by the Church. By the faithful, it meant all who by baptism are incorporated into Christ, are constituted the people of God, sharing the priestly, prophetic and kingship of Christ (cf LC, 31) Be that as it may, it may still take some years for the non-ordained members of Christ s faithful of Jesus' family in Nigeria, to assimilate, appreciate and appropriate and apply the term laity to themselves without much ado or further explanation, exultation and emphasis from the pulpit
While every layperson is in constant search for holiness, he/she enjoys the eccles.al right and privilege to exercise his/her Christian apostolate. By apostolate, we mean every activity of the Church geared towards spreading the Reign of Chris, in ever, human heart, thereby leading the entire world and its activities truly towards Christ to the glory to God the Father There is indeed diversity of ministry but unity of mission Each lay faithful should feel the call and urge to bring Christ to the home, to the market square, farm area; to his/her community and its surroundings (cf. CC, 210). The specific apostolate, which is common among the lay faithful, is penned down in their secular walks of life - family, occupation, social life and public activities.
Various aspects of parish life and activities are engaged by the laypeople But ecclesial-structural apostolate makes certain parish life and activities a reserve of just few ' laypeople, and fewer chances still for those who would wish to be involved on the scale of full-time apostolate. By participating folly and actively in the world, the laypersons are nowhere lesser members of the Church than the clergy or religious. As a matter of fact the essential rights and responsibilities of the Christian flow from baptism, wh.ch to the springboard of all other sacraments, and it is possessed by all the faithful in the Church an equal measure.
While the Church endeavours to assist her members to appreciate their responsibilities in the Church and in the world, many seem to be far from understanding. A parishioner was once asked about his understanding of a layperson within the framework of the Church, his response speaks volumes: "A layperson is the one, who goes to church every Sunday, genuflects as he enters the church, kneels for a while, and then sits on the pew facing the altar picks up his magazine/newspaper, faces down to read, chats with those beside him, runs commentary as long as the homily lasts, and later puts his hand in his purse and drop some note in the offertory box, and finally leaves as soon as the announcement begins” This may sound funny to say the least. But it is a serious remark that calls for our attention It bespeaks of passivity, a lack of adore to the sacred, of obsessive compulsiveness, and of one deprived of initiative' In a word it draws our attention to the distinction between religious practice and religious commitment. No, the laypeople are never the extension of the pastor, to carry out a Christian infiltration of the world. They are in the world, they have their own specific mission there, that is to imbue and perfect the order of temporal affairs with the spirit of the Gospel (cf. CC. 225, 898, 909; LG. 31) The Vatican 11 Council in its Decree on the Aposiolale of the Laity 2, submits that a Christian "who does not work at [or promote] the growth of the body (of Christ) to the extent of his possibilities must be considered useless both to the Church and to himself." There is urgent need in our Church today to erase the partitions of religion from life and the tendency to confine religion to Sundays and churches. For the labour to be fruitful, the laypersons, the parishioners must work collaboratively with their pastor, who in turn must create, the atmosphere that would enable them freely and happily engage in collaborative action.
ii. The Parish Priest (Pastor)
The central visible figure in any Catholic parish is the pastor He is the number one ' Christian in that community in the eye of the society and his constituency. He enjoys this privileged position not because he is endowed with greater wisdom or intelligence, or he is more talented or gifted or he is more handsome or holier than the rest of the believers in the Christian community. This special position he occupies amidst other members of the believing community is rather grounded by virtue of his calling and its demands. Being a privilege, it is not without some responsibilities since it is in the sphere of trust that one is given and one receives that honour. As a priest he is called to holiness of life, life of prayer, sanctifying other members of God's household; as a pastor he carries with him wounds and burdens of the people. Like his Lord and Master, he is a priest-victim, the wounded healer. He is mysteriously interwoven with his bishop - he is called to share in the priesthood of his bishop His mission is to preach the Gospel, sustain God's people and celebrate the liturgy above all the Lord's sacrifice... to share with all mankind the word of God, meditate on the law of Christ, believe what he reads, teach what he believes and put into practice what he teaches His teaching should be true nourishment for the people of God By the example of his life he should be able to attract the followers of Christ so that by his word and action he may build up the house which is God's Church.
These paraphrased words of inaction in the rite of ordination are very forceful and informative. Honesty makes us admit that we frequently fall short of our responsibilities demanded by God's word and the Church. Little wonder many parishes look quite dull and unappealing. Wherever one finds a living parish community, one can hardly miss the presence of something sacred. Living as a community means also growing as a community. For a parish community to be fully alive it must constantly try to become more and more aware of the many things, little or big, which need to be attained to, if life in the environment is going to answer the real human needs of all who are living there. This calls for continuous effort and a lot of self – sacrifices on many individual living in that community. A joyless parish community is a pale shadow of what a parish is called to be; it is a challenge and it is our duty to rebuild and enliven it. When the pastor sees himself, and the parishioners experience him as a team leader, and which team does not constitute chosen disciples of the pastor, then there is the likelihood that a new growth in the parish life with firm and good structural alignment will emerge.
However, this is a rare situation in the life of many parishes. At times it is petered against the parishioners and at some other time the balance tilts against the parish leaders beginning with the pastor who plays a central role in the parish life and activities. Often this situation arises as a result of our diverse vested interested, which more or less tend to swallow candour and transparency. Vested interest makes us defend positions not out of conviction or for other’s benefit, but simply because we fear we are likely to lose much. Vested interest blinds us to have a fair assessment of our motives. Thus faced with controversial and sensitive issues we land into equivocation rather than displease some persons.
The parish priest knows that he is not sent to extra-ordinary people but to the simple ordinary humans whose needs are no less simple at times. He knows too that his task is enormous and sometimes overwhelming. He is needed in the parish office, he is bound to attend to sick-calls, give counsel and comfort those m sorrow, attend to the beggar at door, attend parish, deanery and diocesan meetings, give talks to some pious groups, assist in the sacramental union of couples, celebrate the Eucharist, pray the Divine Office, visit the Blessed Sacrament, have his daily Bible readings and reflections, recite the Rosary, attend some social gatherings, book-keeping and balancing accounts at month ends, read books and newspapers/magazines, listen to radio, watch television, welcome visitors, observe siesta, recreate himself via games, honour appointments, observe his holidays and exercise his hobbies, bury the dead and the list goes on He may be a type that wants to be all things to all men and women, and unfortunately ends up being a burden to himself and to others as well.
A careful look on the list of the pastor's engagements reveals that the pastor is involved in the issues that concern governance/administration, liturgical/sacral, education/evangelization, devotional/renewal, social/recreational and welfare/social justice. In a word the pastor exercises pastoral care, proclaims and preaches the word of God, dispenses the sacraments, makes the Eucharist the centre of parish life and activities, strives to know his flock and makes home visitations, promotes the parish unity and its sense of communion with the diocese and the universal Church (cf CC 519; 52881, 2, 52981, 2) These are some of the activities the pastor is bound to face. This is because much has been given to him - much also would be expected of him. Though some of the activities may be carried out by laypersons, the pastor must realise he is the ordinary minister of these functions and on permanent basis for life. The laypersons, however, if need be, may assume some of the activities only on part-time basis. On the other hand, if the pastor attempts to live and engage himself fully in the works of the laypeople, he may run into heavy conflicts in his pastoral ministry.
In spite of the variations in our local customs and cultures, there are four vital signs, activities that are visible in all Catholic parishes. And 1 hold on to say that the strength of each parish depends on its commitment to these four tasks, namely:
a) Proclamation and formation - proclaiming and preaching of the Word, handing on the tradition, educating the parishioners in faith and Christian living, through catechetical programmes, sacramental instructions, re-evangelising programmes for the adults, and schools.
b) Worship and sacramental celebrations - baptism and confirmation, Sunday/weekday Eucharistic celebrations, reconciliation of penitents, marriages, anointing of the sick, burial of the dead, prayer, devotions, fellowship/communion and missions.
c) Works of charity and care - providing for the hungry, homeless, looking after the orphans, widows, the needy and less privileged members, and up-building of the community of faith.
d) Outreach and social concerns - reach.ng out to the unreached, evangelising the unchurched and reconciling the alienated or the outcasts and social cooperation and solidarity with others in what makes way for peace, mutual existence and healthy development in the human community.4
A parish of this kind will be a home for all. A Christian community that is committed to and consistent in carrying out these activities will most likely carry its members along the path that leads to our heavenly home.
3. The Pastor and the Laity - Shared Responsibility in the Ministry of Christ
Everywhere people are yearning for a lively parish, where its members are actively engaged and participating in most of the liturgical and social functions of the church. Much has been written about lay participation or collaboration with the laity in the ministry of the church. The word “minister” as applied to the laity is technically inaccurate The New Testament, in the mind of most experts, confined the word "minister" to authoritative proclamation of the Word in order that those doing activities [casually called ministries] could be educated and maintained in the truth. That is to say that a "minister is one appointed to the task and in this instance the task is that of teaching which sustains them in faith and knowledge."5 The minister is indeed an official appointee whose job or ministry centres on promoting good order and the building up of the community of faith via sound instructions and proclamation of the Word… The rest are collaborators, splendid and necessary doers of service.
Some call it "lay involvement", "shared responsibility", "partnership" or "team ministry" or "collaborative leadership." Other terms belonging to the collaborative stable include, "collegiality", "co-responsibility", and "subsidiarity". Each of these terms has its shortcoming. Each author attempts to draw his/her support from the Vatican 11 Council documents. All in all the Council Fathers challenged all Christians with a threefold call: holiness, ministry, and community Further, the Council lifted and emphasised an integrative concept - People of God - within which we are enabled to respond positively to that triple call Through this new focus, the framework for holiness and ministry accentuates not on the individual Christian as such but on the people. When the call for action anchors on the people, when reaching out means embracing the people with the good news, then our approach to ministry cannot be anything less than mutual, shared, and collaborative Thus the Council loans its voice and in tone’s that the laity.
Have been made sharers in their own way in the priestly, prophetic and kingly office of Christ and play their part in carrying out the mission of the whole Christian people in the church and in the world. . . It is [their] special vocation to seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal • affairs and directing them according to God's will.6
The Council too urged the pastors to follow the example of Jesus the Lord by ministering to themselves as well as the rest of the faithful. The latter, it maintains, should eagerly collaborate with pastors and teachers. And so, amid their -variety all bear true witness to that wonderful unity in the body of Christ: this very diversity of graces, of ministries and of works gathers the children of God into one, for "all these things are the work of the one and the same Spirit" (1Cor 12:11).7
John Paul II, while addressing a group of American bishops on their annual visit to Rome in July 1993 holds that collaborative ministry, "when completely faithful to the church's sacramental doctrine, provides a sure foundation for building communities which are internally reconciled, and the spiritual energies of which are positively harnessed for the new evangelization.” 8
The central concern of the foregoing statements is that parishioners should share responsibility for the care and the future of their parishes as opposed to leaving the whole affair to the priests alone… Such mutual sharing of responsibility does not play down the unique place of the ordained minister of the believing community. It rather enhances and enlightens his burden and paves the way for the gospel.
Co-labouring is equally not identical with delegation or consultation, for the latter presumes that the parish renewal is ultimately the specific role of the priest. This kind of parish renewal "needs as its leader a pastor who has a deep experience of the living Christ", notes John Paul II in his Apostolic Exhortation Kccles.a in America, missionary spirit, a father's heart, who is capable of fostering spiritual life, preaching the Gospel and promoting cooperation”9
The non-Catholic Christians in Nigeria have often described the Catholics and with particular emphasis on the laity, as "sleeping giants" We may argue against them in some other ways, but we may not argue against this label if we are honest to ourselves. The word "giant" does not only refer to numbers but also to potentials - to energy, to resourcefulness, to giftedness, to commitment, and to hope. These are the "giants" which parish renewal is meant to reawaken and to recapture from further sleeping and their subsequent sinking into moribund. The hope of the church lies in having parishioners who are readily available to take care of their parishes in collaboration with their pastor.
Co-labouring, therefore, in the words of Loughland Sofield and Carroll Juliano, "is the identification, release and union of the gifts of all baptised persons."10 Thus shared responsibility means working, and bringing our diverse gifts, together. And we can only work together if we have a common purpose in mind. This explains why shared responsibility is essentially an attitude of mind. Admittedly, the main evidence that such an attitude of mind actually exists will be seen in the practical organization and life of the church. It is also true, argues Kevin T. Kelly, that one's personal appreciation and understanding of what collaboration really means will only develop and deepen to the extent that one begins to live and work collaboratively.11 That is why prior to collaboration there has to be a kind of inner conversion for all. Genuine conversion, indeed; disposes us to reform our attitude of mind, our structures, organisations and personal relationships.
The basis for collaborative ministry is the belief that every baptised person is gifted and is called to minister for Christ within and outside the community of faith. Put briefly, the sacraments of initiation (Baptism-Confirmation-Eucharist) and our mutual giftedness are what undergird the mutual relationship between the ordained and non-ordained ministers. By integrating the sacraments of initiation into the fundamental structure of the Church, the Council provides us one of the key elements to understand and appreciate the Church itself and the various ministries embedded in it. It also attempts to underscore the recovery of the ' basis of ministry from that of the exclusively ordained to that of all the baptised, male and female it reduces the sharp division that put the clerics at one side and the lay people on the other side "Ministry, then, is not a choice for the Christian, but a privilege and obligation.
Beyond the individual call for ministry, there is a call as a people. This corporate call implies the necessity for individuals to discover ways to join their gifts with the gifts of others for the building up of the kingdom."12
This is the secret behind the new emphasis on the ancient scriptural paradigm we call Collaboration. The precision of this statement is this shared responsibility, co-labouring, is not born out of necessity or permission but simply by baptismal privilege and right It is unrelated to shortage or booming of priestly vocation It stands on its own right - the right and privilege of all the baptised Mistake not about it, collaboration in leadership or ministry is not an emergency solution. It is not a stopgap measure or a last-ditch effort It is not even a technique, a means to an end. Its justification is far from being the most effective way of dealing with the situation. It exists, not because it works, or not because it might work, rather because it is right on its stand. It belongs to the essence of being a Christian whose call to evangelise is not optional. This point needs emphasis in all our parishes and Schools of Evangelisation.
No doubt, pragmatic needs might have facilitated the introduction of extraordinary ministers of communion and collaborative ministry debate in some parts of Europe and America, but it is clear from our arguments so far, that collaboration does not rest on pragmatic motives.13
It becomes a warning signal to the Church in Nigeria. The Church in Nigeria must not wait until such needs arise before we bridge up the missing link in our pastoral ministry. The truth must be grasped; in the community of faith there is nothing like lack of gifts or callings A person's call to ministry is a direct response to the charisms God has bestowed on that person, and ministry should flow from those charisms We are all called to minister for Christ. A child does it in a child's way and an adult in an adult's way. Paul seems to be saying the same thing when he writes: when I was a child, I spoke like a child, thought like a child, reasoned like a child; now as an adult I employed all the senses and maturity of an adult and rooted them in hope, faith and love (cf. 1Cor 13:11-13).
When we co-labour in ministry we simply bring together our various gifts for the effective cause of Christ and the gospel. The goal of collaboration therefore is to discover ways to identify, release, utilise and unify the various gifts of all the baptised.14 This challenge has been articulated and affirmed by the 1985 Extraordinary Synod of Bishops of America. The Synod exhorted all the faithful to "participation and co-responsibility at all levels.” 15
It has to be emphasised that collaborative ministry goes beyond the mere selection and incorporation of a specific group from the laity It extends beyond the border of programs that add lectors, altar boys/girls, men/women of order, leaders of various associations and communion helpers to the sacramental and liturgical functions. Collaborative ministry is not the privilege of selected or elected group of the parish community. Implementation of collaborative ministry calls for concerted efforts to enable all Christians, all in every parish to respond to their baptismal call and engage in ministry with other members in the Christian community.
What bothers one in this respect within the parishes in Nigeria is that some of the activities and involvements of the non-ordained faithful is circumspectively, and at times suspiciously, viewed as a privilege, which only the pastor has a right to give or to withdraw It appears such pastors have not fully grasped the implications of the sacraments of initiation in the first place, and secondly they have failed to understand what is meant by shared responsibility and as a result fail to appreciate its value. Their prejudice probably stems from hanging rigidly on the hierarchical model of ministry. Some others are very much obsessed with endless discussions and authoring works on collaboration but are afraid to risk a trial. Another groups are rather ambivalent in their attitude. While they believe in the value of collaboration, they make some attempt, but lack the courage to hold on to long-term commitment as a result of some obstacles and difficulties. All seems to be saying, we should. We want to, we can, but lack the final courage to submit and dive in, we will.
All this points to a major challenge confronting today's Church namely, the challenge to translate the ideals of collaboration into concrete daily life. How can people of diverse ideas, culture, education, lay and ordained, women and men, work harmoniously towards a mutual goal of proclaiming the good news and thus extending the reign of God in people's hearts?
The Church in Nigeria inherited a tradition whereby ministry is viewed as the sole responsibility of the professionals (the clergy and religious) who functioned more or less as loners. Some pastors have indirectly hindered the chances of spreading the gospel by conveying an attitude of "I can do it all alone" or by not lacking in want of the use of aggressive pronouns while referring to the Church – “I will never live to see this happen in my church, my parish", "never again in this parish of mine" “of this nonsense in my parish", some priests say.
The level of enlightenment about collaborative ministry among the Catholic Christians (ordained, religious and the laity) in Nigeria is still low. Little wonder here and there we hear from the pulpit the painful and divisive sledgehammer pronouncements that paint some members bad for carrying out what in their thinking are unorthodox teachings and gathering. There is virtually no rest in the area until the group are summarily dismissed and labelled as non-conformity members of the community In this situation, the pastor, as Francis Morrissey observes, seems to have forgotten that his primary function is to enable and animate the whole parish community to assume its role of carrying out the pastoral responsibilities of the Church.'6 Here more than ever the need for positive exposure to the Church's needs through continues education and adaptation from all sides becomes imperative.
There may be deeper reasons other than want of theological education that motivate some pastors to deny the non-ordained faithful their ministerial rights If we accuse the laity of lacking high theological foundation, then it becomes imperative for dioceses to provide solid, professional formation and training suitable for the effective discharge of their rightful duty. To be fair, this chance already exists in some dioceses in Nigeria Some of the dioceses run and operate already pastoral centre’s, catechetical schools and schools of evangelization that are open for all categories of Christians - the laity, religious and priests. The training may last for one month to two years depending on one's theological knowledge and background. It revolves around the core aspects of theological, spiritual, socio-cultural and pastoral skills, Church history and catechesis. The objective is to recruit and fill up the parishes with volunteers; people who are prepared to generously offer their time and talent in the service of the gospel and the Church.
The truth, however, is that many pastors are unwilling to encourage their flock towards that direction. They are hunted probably by fear of finance, or as one priest explained, that after training these people some of them do not bring their knowledge to bear with the parish programs. There are already instances whereby some of them return from training, they turned (sometimes cunningly) to work against the Church and they have no rest until they open their own church. I personally have witnessed this last view, and it can be painful and disappointingly embarrassing. But a close look would show that it is not something new to the Church in her 2011 years of experience. What about the Lord Jesus himself Did not some of his close friends betray and abandon him'' Surely the history of the Church leaves before us a litany of many of her illustrious children that turned against, her In spite of that the Church, guided and led by the Holy Spirit, still lives and moves on in the footsteps of her Bridegroom in the understanding that abuse does not prevent the use That there are many car accidents on our roads does not prevent other cars from risking the route unharmed.
The fact is that lay ministers (both in the restrictive officially appointed sense and in the popular lay-volunteer sense) are gradually increasing in many parishes. Many of them seem to understand their boundary and are ready to collaborate with many parish programs. Some of them, in respect of peace and harmony, are just waiting for some green light from their pastor and parish council. In many instances, their collaboration with the ordained ministers has paved the way for more involvement among the parishioners in parish life, and more awareness in being church.
This work does not promise an easy transition since many pastors are not trained to appreciate the value of collaborative ministry. The latter is near to impossible, and so may remain only as a fine concept, if it lacks explicit, intentional efforts from all sides to promote and foster its development. Our willingness to forge ahead amidst inevitable conflicts, frustrations and difficulties until collaboration bec9mes an operational norm will yield rich harvest that would pave the way for the reign of God.
In a parish set-up the pastor, no doubt, is a key-motivating factor to persuade people .to help others. The problem for many a pastor is how to get started. In my personal encounter ' I notice that some parishes are more successful in drawing volunteers than others. This hanged on the policies and characteristics of those parishes and their pastors. Such parishes usually give the volunteers adequate information about those they are being sent to. Put briefly, they are given pretty good job descriptions, which the volunteers are willing to follow. They are further prov.ded with the concrete ways on how to go about it. It is like saying: Here is What you can Jo, and not, ,,, what you can Jo\ They also made prayer and Bible study and sharing as the focal point of raising the volunteers' consciousness and sustaining their motivation. So far I have demonstrated the imperative need of collaboration in parish administration. Enough of theoretical bids; let us now go on to try how one could get started.
4. Getting Co-labourers
The following principles for shared and collaborative ministry are born out of my few years of pastoral experience at Mater Misericordiae Parish, Afikpo (1990 - 199.S) I intend to propose them here to assist those who may find it difficult to get started This may inspire you to find a better way of going about it in your own way in your own peculiar situation and territory. Even though the goal of collaborative ministry is to get every member of the parish involved in the Lord's vineyard, for practical reasons begin with a small group who later may help infect others. Note too that collaborative ministry is not one of hurriedness, but of time and patience rooted in love. The crucial question is: how, do you get people involved and keep them being involved? The question, I suppose, is simply asking about the recruiting, caring, and feeding of volunteers. The following guidelines may be of great help to both the pastor and the volunteers.
I propose here a principle I consider to be of a wide, long-term, remote process. Even though a parish in Nigeria may be filled with university/poly-technique graduates or PhDs, it may surprise one to discover that their knowledge of their faith and Church is disappointingly quite minimal. In fact, average Catholic parishioners appear to have minimal understanding about what they believe. The truth is that every Sunday one is in the midst of, and worshipping with, a religiously preliterate congregation.
My first two years in -Mater Misericordiae Parish (1992 — 1993) were spent in teaching and explaining the faith. (That is what I am doing in my present pastoral engagement). First, I took advantage of the Sunday Congregation, which is the largest single captive group that is readily available on weekly basis. Sometimes I used homily time, sometimes just before the final blessing at every Sunday worship to inject some important messages - all within the time frame of our Sunday liturgy. Later I began Bible class on Sunday evenings with a small group, which now has grown to a very large fruitful tree that has gained a diocesan recognition. Much room was offered to the people to express themselves and to ask questions even though we did not supply all the much-expected answers. Gradually the people began to have a sense of their baptismal dignity, a sense of being church, and awareness of their role in the congregational worship, a sense of mystery, and a sense of God's Presence. Active participation, a sense of responsibility and aliveness were felt. In a short time the entire parish members were infected to the point that the last Sunday of the month was set aside as outreach Sunday to our lapsed Catholic members. The entire parish members (children and adults) were fully represented and the people look forward to this outreach day. It was a fruitful venture. However, not everyone was converted or reconverted. We were not discouraged. In any case, the unconverted were never treated to feel less Catholics, less parishioners. More impressive for me is this courage of the Church going out to meet the people in their very situation and not waiting always like a monument for the people to come to her. That is a kind of ancient paradigm of the Church in her bid to evangelise.
The apostle Paul, who once faced similar situation, inspired this first principle, when he asked: "But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom "they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent9' It may ' still follow to add: And how are they to he sent unless they are trained? Faith, Paul further says, comes from hearing - the word of Christ (cf. Rom.10. 14-15, 17). Any good training requires, and is supported by, some form of reinforcement.
In order to reinforce the people's sense of community, small centers’ were opened whereby people from the same area have possibility of meeting any convenient day and time within the week. They assemble to pray and share the Bible together and discuss some issues of their interest. They also visit one another. If a member is absent in any gathering including Sunday worship we had volunteers who, within the week, visit him/her to find out whether all is in order. I also do casual visits to the parishioners at their homes. They are often more open to speak out their personal problems on such occasions than when they have a reason to come to the so-called office hours. Twice a year we had parish seminars, which today have been taken over by laity week and bible week The Pentecost Week is now a parish affair We gather every evening to pray, reawaken and rediscover the place of the Holy Spirit in our lite This spiritual exercise usually ends with Agape or Loves Feast organized by and for the parishioners. The central point of all these spiritual exercises is simply to heal the inner conflicting issues buried in our individual hearts and to sharpen the sensitivity of our assured security in God as Father, through Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit. The unity we find in the One and only God fosters our congregational participation and we are thereby more united. They are proud to identify with the parish, and fondly say: "Mater Parish is my Church", to a chance visitor. Put in another way, the people are in touch with reality, touching the depth of one another's heart because they are immersed in God.
Organisational problem was quickly anticipated as participants swell up. Members were divided up in groups of twenty (though this number is already a crowed, we were able to manage the situation) in their favoured ministries with a group leader attached to each Special attention is equally given to the leaders of the different ministries and associations in the parish. There are times when the well runs dry17 in our spiritual journey. This is more apparent among those who spent most of their time in giving out. Such people are more often than not victims of burnout. They need to re-tank or refuel in order not to lose their spiritual luster and fervour. We tried to resolve it through a monthly leaders' recollection or spiritual conference or retreat lasting for a day or two days. In truth, one could observe that leaders are hungry and thirsty for spiritual direction and rejuvenation
This principle stems from the following passage of the Scripture "The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, 'Come away to a lonely place all by yourselves and rest awhile.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a lonely place by themselves" (Mk. 6:30-31). One effect of thinning down into groups is to know ourselves much better. Is that not the wisdom behind the Church's creation of many pious associations found in different parishes?
iii. Getting to Know You
It is an obvious fact that some people prefer to remain anonymous in any association. They like to hide and be lost in the crowd. This is no less true among Christians of whatever denomination. But the situation is blatantly clear among Catholics. The Catholic experience in Nigeria is that churches are filled to the brim in most churches every Sunday. In such parishes the pastor faces a crowd of anonymous parishioners. What is hardly reflected is the great deal of talents that go untapped and unused simply because we let people blend into the background as anonymous members. In Mater Misericordiae Parish 1 tried the following ways to get people known, recognised, and involved.
The parish had seven stations not excluding the -parish centre. Each station had a station leader and group of leaders. Each year they organise a parish-wide census. They went to every house of their members in their respective stations. They were required to collect the following personal data: names, ages, sacraments received, sex (male/female), marital status (single/married), parish status (registered/not registered), lapsed/drop out, statutory body (CMO, CWO, or CYON) - here we were careful not to discriminate the "Single parents- We were also counting the number" of attendants at every Mass or Station Service without a priest.
Another kind of census was rather a survey of opinions about everything ranging from Mass schedule to quality of the homilies, music/songs, catechism classes, parish organisations, parish programs, financial strength and others.
In every first Sunday of the month, newcomers were formally introduced and prayed over before the final blessing and dismissal. They were requested to make a step forward to the front of the altar and introduce their names and their residential addresses Thereafter the whole congregation led by the pastor stretched out their-hands and prayed over them Then the choir sang -a welcome song for them, and members dance to embrace them as a sign of hearty welcome to the congregation.
Churching (child's presentation) is also another important element that cements the community. Ideally infant baptism should be carried out on a Sunday. But because of the many crowded programs, we do this on a certain day in a month in line with the established norm of the parish. Then the Sunday that follows the parents come along with the newly- baptised child and present it formally to the entire congregation. The pastor takes up the child, places it on the altar (according to our local custom), shows it to the congregation hands it over to the parents and blesses the child, its parents and all who accompanied them to the altar. This principle is built from the Lord's saying: "I have called you by your name; you are mine...because you are precious in my sight, and honoured, and I love you" (Is. 43:1, 4). Jesus encourages us to allow the little children to come to him for unto such belonged the Kingdom of God. "I give them eternal life", Jesus declared, "they will never be lost and no one will ever steal them from my hand" (Lk 18:16; Jn. 10 28)
iv. A Tax-free Church - An Alternative?
In a world where money is all-in, where money is considered 'as a supreme value, as the only relevant language, a non-salaried pastor working in a rural area and who depends solely on the trickles from the offertory collection for his upkeep is bound to face a great temptation. The Church is great, and greatness must be financed The Church as an institution that operates within human society can hardly stand without some form of financial support The experience of the Church in Nigeria is that the dioceses, even so the parishes have many different ways of strengthening their financial capacity At the parish level, the main fund- raising activities include launching, bazaar, and some, church levies ( A M C/A C I ., building levy, diocesan levy and other allied levies). The issue of launching and bazaar comes from the free offers of the church members. Nevertheless, levy, in whatever form it takes, is a mandatory and compulsory offer. In almost all the churches, contribution through "levy" has remained a source of useless anxiety, stress, frustration and controversy. The reason, 1 think, is that people view levy as a form of tax, and humans by nature abhor taxation
In our new parish - Mater Misericordiae Parish, Afikpo - we were confronted with many issues that needed urgent financial attention. We were about constructing a house for our daily and weekly gathering for prayer, fellowship, worship and meetings. However, I waved off the urgency and began first to educate the people on the possibility of making financial contribution with minimal tears. I was unable to convince most of the parish councillors and their constituencies who had been programmed to- think that there are no other ways to raise fund except by compulsory levy. 1 pleaded with them to allow me to experiment, and if I failed to deliver I would bow down to their wish.
I explained why we need a place for our regular assembly and meetings, which necessarily must not be a building. 1 further explained our relationship with the church building and why the option for the latter was preferred to ordinary open field or under the shed of a tree. The enlightenment period took some months. We arrived at the conclusion of making the first Sunday of the month as Church Building Donation Sunday. What we realised on the first trial Sunday was unparallel to what we could have gotten via compulsory levy in one year. Some people freely donated building materials, which we needed more than money. Some others offered us their skill in building, their time, energy and presence - all free of charge. In three years we started using the church building for worship, rejoicing with God and with one another in our collective alleluia. The force of the Lord's injunction that we should give without charge began to bear itself out (Mtt. 10:8).
v. Respect and Appreciate the Donors' Intention
A follow-up to the foregoing principle is that the parish leaders should respect the good intentions of donors. Usually when people discover that what they donated is being diverted to some other directions, no matter how nice they may appear, they certainly will feel cheated and exploited. Consequently, they would respond in some most embarrassing ways. They may pass vote of no confidence on those responsible. The pastor may shout several times from the pulpit only to discover that, he had dropped his voice on deaf ears. A transparent honesty and accountability are among the qualities of good leadership. The leadership of Mater Misericordiae Parish exercised these "qualities and were always appreciative of every effort from the people no matter how little.
vi. Make Personal Contacts
Often people hardly come out to volunteer unless you recognise them by writing or announcing their name with a specific task or responsibility. Indeed to ask for volunteers is simply to meet old friends. Usually people are loyal, willing, able, and generous; in short very strong backbone. However, the danger is precisely because the same people volunteer and offer competent-services, others shrink and back off. The latter feel ill-qualified and incompetent to measure up to the standard already set up by old hands. Conversely, when, the pastor takes the initiative and invite some members, who never had volunteered for some parish programs to the parish house, the result will call for a repetition Among the Igbo parishioners, as at the time of writing this work, the mystique of the priest's name, despite .bad press, still holds sway, and the people, both old and new functionaries, are reluctant to say "no" to being involved. In any case good leaders have the potentiality of empowering those they are leading, lifting them up and encouraging them to lead
vii. Empower the People via the "Isiji" Dance
In Edda, a town in Igbo, one of the stages of initiation into manhood is what they call Isiji. It is an aspect of the process of seasonal training into manhood spanning from late August to early November lasting for between 3 and 9 years in the days of yore. It is a kind of socialisation process whereby the candidates are schooled into all aspects of the people's life as a body - their history, culture, religion, polity, economy, judiciary, and military strength. Each season is usually crowned with "Ukpo" or "Umuneke" or' "Isiji" festival dance. Interesting here is that the training is mostly in the hands of initiates by initiates. There are, however, specified elders who serve as their guardfly. The longer one is there the less one is-engaged. One shares out one's authority and duties to the junior ones until one finally disengages oneself from the group via one's last Isiji dance.
This ancient tradition of the Edda people teaches us the principle that when you have trained a group or the entire congregation in the ways of doing something and have led them for a while, allow other people to take your position, while you take the front seat (pew). Later move to .he middle pew, and still later to the hack pew, and finally, out the front or rear door. Then you have done your Isiji dance. The people now owned it and owned it well and movingly. Thus you have empowered the people. Once the people have learnt there is no need to hold on, much less to control. They are now in a position to make their own decisions. They will invite you when they need you. Encourage their effort no matter how little. They will reduce much of your pastoral duties. This is the principle I employed when we started Bible class in Mater Misericordiae Parish that finally became a large society in the parish as mentioned already. This principle is particularly relevant m a system like ours where parish priests are not immune from transfer.
Viii. Happy Endings
Those in leadership position may at times be at cross-purposes. It can b quite dismaying that a volunteer wants a change or leave his post for good but feels it may be seen as a betrayal to the parish priest who, he/she thinks still needs his/her service. On the other hand, the parish priest, all the while, is in agony in want of new blood in the job but does not know how to graciously ask this volunteer to leave for good. One step out of this situation is to develop a tradition whereby no one may serve in a leadership position in most ministries for more than three years. (By “most ministries” is meant that there are obviously some require continuity because of specialization or there are not enough people around). This freeing principle, People are given a sense of a beginning and ending. Some may return to membership, while some others are absorbed into other ministries. Other than the one they had served before. Other becomes valued alumnae or alumni, who fill in when there is a gap. This is already a laid down working guideline in the Catholic Diocese of Abakaliki, which some pastors overlook to their embarrassment and discomfort.
viii. Respect Co-labourers
The background of this principle lies in the understanding that, and regard for volunteers as adults, and they should be treated as such. Unfortunately, some pastors in Nigeria treat their co-labours (volunteers and paid staff) as if there were their houseboys or housemaids. They hardly speak with but almost speak to the volunteers or paid staff working with them in the parish. Even when they (volunteers) with all respect make a demand of some working materials, the response they often meet is no less than the sound of a thunder that makes them shrink back in fear. Such attitude cannot but retards the positive development of the parish. We should not forget that the parish volunteers are invaluable working force of the parish. In point of fact, when people know that their needs and dignity are respected, they are more likely to respond in a manner that would bring honour to the parish.
ix. Volunteer Thank-You-Day
Choose a suitable time of the year, probably after the busy Christmas or Easter season shortly before or by the first meeting of the parish council in January or any other convenient time and invite the entire parish volunteers (members of the parish council heads and secretaries of various statutory bodies and pious associations) to a get-together. A labourer deserves his wages, says Jesus (cf. Mtt. 10:10). The volunteers are the least to ask for a pay even though it is hard to get a free service nowadays. There is no-gain-saying that to gather them at specified time of the year just to smile, laugh and chat with one another amidst light refreshment and music, and towards the end express one's gratitude for their healthy collaboration for the cause of the gospel all through the year, will certainly make a big difference. Those who have tried it know the abundant fruits it brings in return. We are encouraged to cultivate Paul's profound attitude: “In everything, give thanks" (1Thess. 4:18).
x. In and Out - Not In or Out
This last principle is a cautionary measure. Some pastors have succeeded in establishing and turning their parishes as healing centres. Clear is that they have inadvertently turned their parishes into service stations. The parish is there to "save souls", yes. It is an island of grace, yes. Thus people turn out in mass from all walks of life not only to be serviced but also to find refuge from our wicked and horrendous world.
True to say there are more than sufficient daily horrors and indignities in our world, but the truth also is that this very world is God-filled, God-infested, and God-led. It is obvious that our world of work and family and netghbourhood is the fitting place of lay witnessing and spirituality. Pastors involved in hea.ing ministry must be wary to avoid fostering a sanctuary mentality among the lay people. Granted that the laypeople are invaluable and necessary availability in different areas of parish ministry and programs, no one should think that parish involvement is the limit of their mission, and thereby felt they have satisfied then proper and genuine vocation. Their function in the parish is not an "in or out" finality to borrow William J. Bausch expression, but an "in and out" process. That is to say people are expected to come to the parish for fellowship, for worship, to focus on their proper calling beyond the parish as spouses, workers, students, and citizens. Their assistance in the parish is supposed not be seen as an end in itself, but as a means for all to find courage and strength to go out and evangelise, to leaven, to be salt of the earth and light of the world, to bear witness, to bring Jesus the Lord to the marketplace, to business centers, and to uncover and celebrate grace in what life offers us daily.
The primary and ordinary role of the laity is their commitment to their families, works and communities. They need further persuasion to understand that time spent with family, friends, colleagues, social clubs/committee of friends and in the village/community meetings is equally genuine ministry. The force of this statement runs thus in no way shall the parish ministry for priests and religious be measured for the lay people. For the former it is a full-time commitment, and for the latter it is still a part-time. No one should be made to feel guilty for not having enough time to maintain full-time ministry in the world, and at the same time maintain full-time ministry in the Church as well as in the family Ail in all, what matters is not the amount of time given to a particular ministry one is engaged,, but the commitment and dedication one shows in it.
The above principles, even where they are religiously observed, however, do not guarantee shared responsibility a smooth sailing venture. Some obstacles must be faced and won over, namely competitiveness, parochialism, arrogance, and burnout; hostility, unwillingness to deal with conflict, unwillingness to deal with loss, learned helplessness, and failure to integrate sexually.
5. The Church's Goods and Accountability
We have already touched some aspects on this issue. What follows is simply to spell them out and offer some useful insights, which some pastors very often overlook. Some priests are willing to get rid of the administration, but they are afraid to let go the purse string. A treatment on parish administration may be incomplete, if it does not touch on the management of temporalities of the parish. Money is said to be the root of all evil, but hardly will any society of organization strive without some form of financial backing. The church/parish needs money to run its multiple projects.
Some parish priests are astute in money yielding projects or programmes but are weak in financial management. In many of our parishes in Nigeria, one may witness useful projects - physical structures for different purposes. The priest in-charge will readily tell you how much- he has put into such a project but unfortunately one may be embarrassed to discover that he has no single record of the details. Keeping records is among the imperative actions of a pastor. The parish inventories should be checked and updated on regular bases. The diocesan and parish finance committees must be up and doing in this regard. The following may serve as a guide:
1. Extra-ordinary' temporal goods - Land acquired; alienated property like Contracts.
2. Ordinary temporal goods - Domestic durable property - Beds, Forms, Generator, Refrigerator, Seats, TV, Kitchen utensils, cutleries, etc
3. Finance -Cash at Hand, Cash in bank; Name of Bank, Type of Account - Savings, Fixed deposits, Current, Shares
4. Sacramental and Pastoral - Parish Mass Box and its content. Vestments, Altar Cloths, Items for Benediction, the Tabernacle, Sacramentary and Lectionaries, Church pews and ambos.
5. Miscellaneous Property - Items bought or received in the name of the parish that may not be classified in any of the above - Type-writers, computers and accessor.es, internet/TV satellite dish, photocopy machines, -telephones, wall clock. Window blinds, Rugs etc.
Following my diocesan directive, each parish must open two accounts:
Mission Account - Here the parish priest enters the income and expenditure as they affect Daily and Sunday collections, AMC (ACF), Mass Stipends, Stole Fees, "Tithes", etc., food and drinks, gas/fuel, telephone calls, internet browsing, charity, wages, make-ups, dresses, other needs, per month
Parish Account - Here the priest records proceeds from harvest-bazaar- thanksgiving, donations, loans, levies, and building projects, other major projects, Salaries, vehicle repairs, etc.
Some Essential Documents Necessary to Run a Parish and Mission Accounts:
i. Bishop's Authorization Letter to open a Mission Account - Here the parish priest is the sole signatory to the account.
ii. Bishop's Authorization Letter to open a Parish Account - Here the parish finance committee (three in number) would be signatories to the account.
iii. Bishop's Authorization Letter for a change of signatory/signatories where applicable
Request for a copy after the bank had finished processing it. Make a copy available to the diocesan finance committee. It is clear that some priests have opened account meant for a parish in their' own name. With the death of such parish priests it becomes near to ' impossible for the diocesan finance committee to recover the parish money from the bank. The bishop's authorization letter makes it easier for the diocese or parish to reclaim its account irrespective of whether there is a change or absence of the previous parish priest.
All bank documents pertaining to the above accounts (Mission and Parish Accounts) must be safely kept and made available when need be. These include:
- Cheque booklets
- Passbook - Deposits
- Passbook - Withdrawals
- Other relevant bank documents - Fixed Deposits, Shares/Investments
Surely we all are not accounting experts. We need not to be. Just buy a big tick cover exercise note book. Share it into two; one section for recording your daily incomes, and the other for the daily expenditures. At the end of the month you balance the two arms. May be once or twice a year the diocesan finance committee with the mandate of the Local Ordinary may oversee the keeping of these financial records (the print-out account, not the account book).
Similar exercises are expected from those who run schools or other financial institutions.
The frequency of the reports is-left to the discretion of the Local Ordinary
6. Building a Culture of Trust:
The Church has no army or policemen or any enforcement agents to make us act according to the wish of the church. The only enforcement agent that is clear to me is our individual consciences. We may decide to thwart the diocesan good intentions and plans for our collective "and individual benefits. Accurate recordings enable us to balance the scale of our spendthrift tendencies. The viability and non-viability of at parish may be measured by its monthly and annual incomes. Even the strength of a parish cannot evade its monetary dimension. What we need here is simply being frank and honest to ourselves. Candour and transparency, according to Faley J. Roland, get lost in vested interests, as earlier said We defend positions not out of conviction but because we have too much to lose. We do not assess our motives as we should.18 Many of us have not been fair to our parishes in areas of money and property. We have betrayed the hope and trust that is laid upon us in the sphere of naira and kobo. The Sunday or daily collection box has become the financial security of some of the people living with us. There is need for all us to change. There is need, one day, for us to stand out before our parishioners to announce to them our collective happy fault. This is possible if we have the courage to change.
7. The Courage to Change:
Surely we all had developed styles of keeping our financial records. It requires a little bit of humility to alter the mind-set. There is nothing one does in the parish that qualifies one to act as a lone-ranger. The mandate we all share is not a private affair. To be sent means to follow, return and report back, every now and again,, to the one who sent you. One must be guided by the diocesan norms and policy. Otherwise one may find oneself playing nice and beautiful but outside the line. S
The common political slogan everywhere is "change". Some changes are going on in our society and rapidly too. The Church, living in the society, cannot pretend to be unaffected. Change in the parish invariably entails change in the role of the pastor, even if he chooses to respond or not. A non-response corresponds to a response, a decision to remain aloof to the new. Those who seem unaware of how much their parish is changing seem correspondingly unaware of how far their own ministry increasingly serves the traditional needs of the traditional parishioners, at the expense of new needs and neglect of new opportunities In all truth, a self-sufficient priest stands the risk of being an inefficient pastor
Watch out, he who drinks alone may probably be an alcoholic.
In the parish, as elsewhere, control of money is an important factor Only a free people could be truly responsible people. Unless the laity took their responsibilities, the priest could not discharge his. Unless the priest also delegated some of his authority, the responsibilities that the lay people are taking on may not be considered a true responsibility.
It is important that people see that you know where you are going. It is a leadership .role. But it is more important to take hold of our responsibility to animate the people to take up their responsibility, to allow priests to return to the basics of the priesthood. There is untapped seam of goodwill and ability that needs to be tapped. Priests come and go in a community via death or transfer. We should weigh some of our expressions: so it is not my parish, but our parish! This may be an uncomfortable situation for priests who are accustomed to stamping their authority on everything, however unimportant. But exercise of humility stands a good therapy for them to conquer their pride and arrogance "Our help, indeed, is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth (Ps 124:8).
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C.B.C.N: Guidelines for the Healing Ministry in the Catholic Church of Nigeria, Catholic Secretariat: Lagos. 1997.
Collins, John: Are All Ministers? Collegeville, Minn: Liturgical Press. 1993.
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Extraordinary Synod of Bishops: "Message to the People of God", in: Origins, 15:27 (Dec. 19, 1985).
Green, H. Thomas: When the Well Runs Dry, Philippines: St. Paul Publications. 1991.
Grill. James: "Burnout: A Growing Threat in Ministry", in: Human Development, 1:1 (summer 1980).
Harrington. Donal: Parish Renewal. Vol.1. Dublin: The Columba Press, 1997.
Kelly, T. Kevin: From a Parish Base. Essays in Mora/ and Pastoral Theology, London: Darton. Longman and Todd Ltd., 1999.
Morris. Francis. "Pastors and Parishioners According to the New Code of Canon Law, in: Pastoral Life, 32:5 (1996).
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Nouwen, J. M. Henri: The Wounded Healer, New York: Image Books. 1972.
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Zulehner, M. Paul: Das Gottesgeruchtt. Bausteine fur eine Kirche derZukunJi. Dusseldorf: Patmos Vcrlag.1989.
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1. Coriden, A. James: The Parish in Catholic Tradition. History. Theology and Canon Law New York Paulist Press. 1997, 19.
3. SC 42.
4. Corriden A. James, Op Cit., 39.
5. Cf. John Collins: Are All Ministers? Collegeville, Minn: Liturgical Press. 1993. James Tunsstead Burtchael: from Synagogue to Church. Public Services and Offices in the Earliest Christian Communities. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992 in: William J. Bausch: The Total Parish Manual, 21. However, in this work we use it casually when applied to the non-ordained people.
6. L.G: n. 31.
8. Quoted in: Bausch. J. William: The Total Parish Manual, 20.
9. John Paul II: Apostolic Ecclesia in America, n. 41
10. Sofiield, Loughla. Ind n and Juliano Carroll: Collaborative Ministry Skills and Guideline,Notr Dame Ave Maria Press. 1987, 11
11. Kelly, T. Kevin: from a parish Base. Essays in Moral and Pastoral Theology, London: Darton, Longman and Todd Ltd., 1999, 57
12. Ibid 20-21.
13. Harrington. Donal: Parish Renewal, vol.], Dublin: The Columba Press. 1997. 103.
14. Ibid. 16.
55 Extraordinary Synod of Bishops (1985). "A Message lo People of God", in: Origin: 15:27 (Dec 19, 1985).
56 Morris. Francis: "Pastors and Parishioners According to the New Code of Canon Law", in: Pastoral Life, 32:5 (1996), 2-11.
57 Being a title work by Green H. Thomas When the Well runs Dry Philippines: St. Publications. 1979.
18. Roland, J. Faley, Footprints on the Mountain..., Philippines: St. Paul's, 1996, p.259.
19. Ryan, Desmond. The Catholic Parish. Institutional Discipline…, London. Sheed and Ward. 1998. p. 158
PARISH ADMINISTRATION AND ACCOUNTABILITY: PARAMETER FOR EVALUATING VARIOUS ARMS OF GOVERNMENT IN NIGERIA
PAPER PRESENTED AT THE THEOLOGICAL CONFERENCE ORGANISED THE CATHOLIC DIOCESE OF OKIGWE