MISSION TO A GROUP OF PARISHES
by S. G. A. LUFF
HE term "General Mission" suggests Christ's charge to His Church when he gave it the task of teaching all nations. In France, however, since 1951, General Mission is the name given to a new version of the traditional parish mission — an approach calculated to incarnate the mission inaugurated in the gospels as effectively as possible
in the here and now.
The parochial Mission has undeniably done good, but of its very nature its scope is limited. It was, after all, designed for the problems of a very different age, when town and village were still teal units of life and influence, and pouring a new spirit into the parish community might well leaven the whole place.
Modern social patterns are so different as to need revised pastoral ntethocht§ on aposlolate measured for today.
Phis XII wrote to a "Religious Week" at Coutancee in 1955: "The dispersed and isolated efforts of individual parishes are incapable of maintaining for long the faith and morals of our people in the face of the profound and rapid transformation of Modern life."
The (lettere! Mission undertakes to help groups of parishes to labour together at the adaptation of old institutions or the crealioh of new ones to meet todey's needs. Such groups can only be made where an authentic social pattern faces them with identieel A region is "authentic" whets all the filmdom infineeces nn thE life of its people can all he cotefed, EA far rIK 11039thle to omit ohe leaves a hole in the vessel, In the long run. ii is to these influences that the Mission must bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We eithnot, of course. expect to Chrisliahise in a hurry every feetory or organteetion, hie we can aim to equip the faithful to meet. in an apostolic way. the problems they face there. They can he trained to "throw bridges across" from the Church 10 those walks of life where, without us. God will be neither known, not loved nor worshipped.
ONSIDER a young worker IL.4 whose employment and leisure both take him charging around on a motor-bike to places miles apart, where he encounters different social values, different beliefs or none. where he may nurse his mind Iii literature or entertainment from the oilier side of the continent or the far side of the ocean.
For his spirituel encouriseemetit ut home tie limy he offered meteership of a confraternity related to none of these conceptions of life that involve him dusk* the other hundred and sixty odd hems; of Ills conscious week. which ca en seems to east in defionee cif them. If he lapses we euphemistically call it leakage -but where is the blame?
The General Mission isan organization with a central office, training. and experience — but it does not jest Move in and take over. It provides missionaries, but the Mission itself is a collaboration between local clergy. laity, and visiting priests. all under the authority of the Bishop through his delegated superior.
Just at foteign missionaries
study the language end background of their people, so a carerid study ill made of an area scheduled for the General Mission. This may take op to three years, Similar care attends the choice Of lay help, a ma/or feature of the General Mission. Laity are to become bridgeheads between the friith anti non-Christian institutions, so they should he representative of du, population in age, sex, and mentality.
With experts from the Mission staff and local clergy they join the committees coping with various departments — liturgy, social questions, education. special local prublems, A central authority prevent gaps or overlapping.
THE lay persons selected receive a "call", often in the form of a personal letter from the bishop. One is alleged to have exclaimed to his wife at the breakfast tehle: "My dear. we can hardly refuse. His Lordship signs with his first teuriel" "rliey are trained In prayer and meditation on the Gospels. The profound character of the call is eepressed thus.: "Militants are IttIt asked Ittiw many, hours they can give each week; they are called to a stale of conversioh," The Mission's success in action depends on good preparation. It lasts three or four weeks. some times the first week is devoted o visits, the second to sermons. the third to forming the Catholic Action groups Or other associations revived or founded by the Mis
sion. Parishioners welcoming others to their honies for the Mkstoners' visits helps to reeky that arduous task easier.
Clearly the General Mission is one that cannot easily "blow ,ever!" Its end is the hate beginning of its achievement. It leaves its inetilutions behind, They are founded with care to serve real needs. they lean on the mutual help of similar institutions throughout the mission area. and shottld not subside with the wave of enthusiasm.
The mission has a negative function too. Its close and competent study often reveals weaknesses. which it can offer expert help to
remedy. Parish boundaries may show up as outdated by changes of population. centres of employment, transport facilities. The provision of such facilities as clubs and libraries may be unequal or uneconomical.
Parishes may he asked to share talent, Such its youth leadership. The modern world, after all, pays scant regard to what Is sometimes itnlhad "parochial" outlook.
LAST year a map of France was published showing areas already covered by the General Mission. Another map showed General Missions in preparation. Hardly anywhere will he left untouched. Some regions will he receiving their second General -I his means that France almost entirely will have had the opportunity to adapt the structure of its parishes worship, associations. Catholic Action — to an ideal as firmly based oh prayer as it is directed to the salvation of met: who have lost God. and their world that has not known Hite This is an achievement full of promise, and from which we May well have something to learn..
In this country the "Medway Towns" seem to he an authentic group. Marry of the parishioners of Strood. R nchester, Chatham and Gillingham OP employed in the Docks ard arid Waterfront ra(;:)»tii::3' years ago the "Medway (wholly", a monthly magazine, appeared, It crises the faftltfrrl of fifteen churches and Mass centres. Locirl Catholic Action news in its column': can he It source of mittrinl help and encouragement. Nearby AIle...ford Friary with its shrine provides a spiritual centre.
Next year's Mission, planned ro Cover the four main parishes, is thready an approach towards the ftirtissfrrl ideal of the General