Next weekend we are going to have a parish summer festival and it made me think about what is a parish, that it would have a festival? And what else should it all be? So of course the first place some of us may look when questioning what a word means is the dictionary, but I’m a little different and this is a little different topic so I am going to look at canon law: ( I have to put this education to use you know.)
Canon 515 – p1 A parish is a definite community of the Christian faithful established on a stable basis within a particular church; the pastoral care of the parish is entrusted to a pastor as its own shepherd under the authority of the diocesan bishop.
Canon 518 – As a general rule a parish is to be territorial, that is it embraces all the Christian faithful within a certain territory. . . .
So as a general rule a bishop divides up the territory of his diocese into parishes and entrusts pastors to care for the people who live in that territory. If you look in the front of our St. Joseph yearly guide book & directory you will see a map of our parish boundaries. I realize many of you may live outside of those boundaries and many from within those boundaries may attend other parishes, but that is how it is defined in a way that you might say puts requirements on me more than you. As pastor of this parish, I am responsible for those living in the boundaries whether you are registered here or not. But because people have different reasons for desiring to belong to other parishes at times, due to their history, people they know, a particular tie with that community, people may register in a different parish at times and we usually just ask them to get their geographical pastor’s permission. It can also happen on a specific basis like for a baptism or a wedding when it is going to be celebrated at a different parish you just need your pastor’s permission to celebrate it there. Here at St. Joseph’s, and most of our neighboring parishes, about 50% of Catholics who live in our parish boundaries are registered here, and about 50% of our registered parishioners live outside of our boundaries.
Another important part of that definition is that a parish is to be established on a stable basis. This means you don’t just create and close parishes on a whim, but it is to be a stable place where a community can truly grow. That is why it is important that we have been here so long, in Clayton since 1886, and as St. Martin’s before that since 1842. And that history, that stability helps us be a community. Some stay members of the parish even if they move a little ways away, others coming back for special events, like weddings and baptisms. As a Christian community we gather for the sacraments, in particular celebrating the Eucharist, where we are united with each other through Christ. But as Christ is not meant to just stay in the church building for Sunday Mass, we need to be a community outside of the sacraments too. In our work to help others, in our learning, in our lives. Hopefully this festival will just be another means by which we live as a parish, sharing as a Christian community here in Clayton as we have for years in the past, and hope to for years to come. (And let’s all pray for a beautiful summer evening too.) I’ll see you Saturday night.