Renewing Parish Life post-COVID19

by Dr. Robbie Lloyd

Parish life has been seriously disrupted during COVID19, and many people yearn for a return to their routine of attending mass and seeing their friends face to face at church each week.

Others had already walked away from their church long ago, due to feeling deeply troubled by the institutional abuse, cover ups, and inability to publicly reconcile and renew. Now the church’s Plenary Council is a formal process slowly moving towards an institutional response to all of the dark recent past.

But as we all prepare for a 2021 of rebuilding our lives, and reconnecting with each other face to face, there are rich opportunities to begin again, and to rediscover how and why the Catholic Church has such a fine history of social justice and caring for the poor.

As Elizabeth Kubler Ross used to say to those beginning the journey of trying to understand death and dying, grief and loss: “When what you have been doing hasn’t been working, do something different!”

Priests and other religious do not have magic wands to make things suddenly better. But our parish communities, service groups and schools do have the magic of people power. By combining hearts, souls and minds, and exploring what is needed in your surrounding wider community, there will be great openings for the shared work that Jesus taught us about.

Catholic Social Teaching is a rich storehouse of ideas and practices that can inform local groups looking at what may be needed in their area. Not just “in the parish” but in the wider society, where Jesus would have operated.

The Justice and Peace Office is offering to work with interested parishes and schools which may desire a renewal of their Social Justice Groups, Community Service, Parish Advisory and Pastoral Councils, in a way that fits the new and emerging world post-COVID19.

Some things will actually be better for what COVID19 has taught us. We don’t have to “go to that meeting at the church tonight” in person if we’re feeling tired from a heavy week at work. We can Zoom in and contribute just as well, so that the pressure is not always on to physically “turn up”. And we can listen to what’s needed and explore options between meetings, using email and social media to communicate the possibilities with a much wider network of allies who may not all be directly attending the organising group gatherings, or even be “part of the church” but among  its friends and associates.

The main element needed is a passion to contribute and share the journey of service together, as well as sharing across the generations, to rebuild the community of believers in action. If you are wondering how to begin, contact the Justice and Peace Office and we can help to work with your local leaders to explore new opportunities.