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It takes all kinds for parishes to live

There is still a strong belief among Roman Catholics in Trinidad and Tobago that you can buy your way into heaven. But God doesn’t deal in cash, only things creditable in the way you live your life. Good works, charity, visiting the sick, feeding the hungry and helping the poor are foolproof ways of making that trip to the Kingdom of God.

There are many people in this country who still hold on to the fact that if you give to the Church, money for harvests, funds for those very special occasions like church renovations it will go a long way to ensuring that your passage into Heaven is a sure thing.

We are all blessed with special talents and skills and the Church on earth will always have use for these kinds of people—good leaders, plumbers, masons, painters, architects and the list is much longer. These are some of the skills which the local Church is longing to have, but find it so difficult to come by on many occasions.

On the other side of that coin, there is nothing sinister about parishioners all over our Archdiocese who are in the forefront of parish activities and many times serving in different organisations of the parish all at the same time.

Such persons must be commended for their drive and commitment, because usually there are so few people to make the rounds. But these are the people who are more likely to make the Heaven manifest.

Conversely, there are those who are blessed with the time, talent and skills, but always believe there are other people who can do the job. They live in the shadows. They attend Mass and receive Holy Communion regularly; are the first ones to leave the church after Mass; make their financial contributions through collections and otherwise; give generously when it is necessary. They are practising Catholics alright.

But when it comes to serving the Church by utilising their talent and skills, reluctance steps in, excuses abound and many times such persons do not attend meetings, prayer group gatherings, harvest committees and such like.

Know-it-alls and do-it-alls

That is not for them. Coming every weekend is as much as they will do. And, there are others who might be useful, but not liked by the hierarchy for one reason or the other and the Church loses those talents.

I was inspired to write about the ills which face all parishes in this Archdiocese every single year. While doing some research, I realised that so many of our parishes were not singular in this unhealthy scenario. It’s a worldwide phenomenon that affects the entire Catholic Church. I came upon it while reading a five-year-old transcript written by Aileen O’Donoghue in Living Faith.

She said, “I found myself wondering how many of us rejoice in our faith communities (read parish environs) as much as Paul did in the Philippians. I sense that we more usually complain about our parishes than rejoice in them.” The biblical verse which refers to this thought is from Philippians 1:3.

Continuing she said, “I would guess that every parish has many of the same types of people—the busy bodies, the know-it-alls, the do-it-alls, those who only grunt when greeted and those who talk incessantly. It’s easy to grumble of having to deal with folks we find difficult. But, what would our lives, particularly our spiritual lives, be like without our parishes with all their similarities and differences?”

Then she added, “Perhaps we need to take some time in prayer to be grateful for having a parish and for all— yes all—the people there who are our spiritual teachers. Perhaps the difficult ones, as we practise loving them, can teach us the most.” She advised, “Let us practise giving thanks at every remembrance of them, however much practise that takes.”

I realise that in the Archdiocese, a paucity of parish priests forced, partly by illness and early retirement, do not allow for greater interaction between priest and parishioner. This generation, unlike those past, need help and direction that only a parish priest with a knowledge of his flock can give. The solution: More vocations.

We are all blessed with special talents and skills and the Church on earth will always have use for these kinds of people—good leaders, plumbers, masons, painters, architects and the list is much longer. These are some of the skills which the local Church is longing to have, but find it so difficult to come by on many occasions.