I often wonder what happens after a parish mission. I spend five days in a parish. This includes preaching at the weekend Masses, and then giving three nightly presentations. I have done roughly twenty parish missions since being ordained a deacon. (I have also given retreats to forty different groups, and I have preached in more than forty different parishes.)
When an "outsider" comes into a parish, it is easy to make a splash. The individual entering in from the outside is not bogged down by all the internal struggles and challenges facing the local community. With that being said, I often wonder about the lasting impact after a parish mission or retreat. Does anything stick, or does everything pretty much return to business as usual once the outsider is gone?
Why do I ask?
I take my role of preaching and teaching very seriously. I believe that all of us in leadership roles within the Church will be held to account for how faithfully or not we lived up to our calling. That responsibility weighs on my mind. Some of the harshest words in Sacred Scripture are directed to Church leadership. Yes, I really do ponder certain passages and pray for strength. The passage about it being better to have a millstone around my neck and tossed into the sea rather than to lead someone astray paints a picture in my mind. Then there are those not so gentle moments such as: "Brood of Vipers," or "You Whitewashed Tombs," or just the good old fashion, "You Hypocrites."
I have worked at the parish level and I know the day-to-day challenges that come along with parish ministry. When I travel to other locales, I put a lot of work into my preparations. I greatly desire to give people a boost in their spiritual journey. I want to give people the best I have in my homilies and teachings empowered with God's grace and the Holy Spirit.
Since I understand the dynamics of parish life quite well, it makes my question about the impact from an outsider a relevant one. Is it an emotional high that lasts a few days and then goes away, or does it give the local leadership something to build on? Does an issue arise six months down the road and someone refers back to the parish mission, or is everything long forgotten by then?
I don't know the answer to my own question. I truly hope my presence at a parish makes a difference for more than just a few days. I will continue to work and pray in a manner that hopefully brings glory to God. I'll let the rest of it fall into place as God sees fit!
Blessings to each of you, but a special shout-out to the good people of Saint Ignatius of Loyola Parish. You continue to be in my prayers.