Becoming a better parishioner, not just a parish: Is Bishop Palmer-Buckle right?

Bishop Palmer Buckle Neew Metropolitan Archbishop of Accra Most Reverend Charles Gabriel Palmer-Buckle

Wed, 23 Aug 2017 Source: Ernest Senanu Dovlo

I have always psyched myself up to see the good in every situation, be it positive or negative but perhaps, I did not think about how “senseless” and heart breaking it would be to be have a Bishop break your heart.

On that 15th day of January 2017, every Tom, Dick and Harry of the St. Dominic Catholic Church Taifa was in a dedication mood and would not have loved to trade that mood for anything even on an “April fool’s” day. When I got to the Church Premises and the doors of the Church were opened, nothing occurred to me that something was not right.

Apparently, the consecrating Bishop, Most Rev. Charles Pulmer Buckle had met with the leaders of the Church to cancel the dedication and elevation ceremonies of the St. Dominic Catholic Church, Taifa. Disappointment was boldly written on the foreheads of Church members so much that most of us, if not all failed to recognize the stress and trauma the priest in Charge had to go through.

For over a week, Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Obeng Cudjoe lost control of everything and was hardly himself. Again, we failed to realise why he got that disappointed. Did any of us really think about the reasons for which Bishop Buckle did not dedicate the Church on that fateful day? Was he not the same person who fixed the dedication on the 15th of January 2017? Did he not know he needed someone to install as a Parish Priest until that very day? Why was Fr. Cudjoe that disappointed? Did he know why the ceremony was cancelled? If yes, why didn’t he say it? Was it that he had time without number asked his flock to yearn and practice to be better parishioners than fight for a dedication rite?

Well, you have no idea how it feels to have a student who decides to turn a deaf ear to all that his teacher says. It may just be as asking a shadow to dance on its own. Yes, I admit I have been a part of the problem but perhaps, the only difference between us is that unlike you, I am conscious of the fact that I need to be a better Parishioner.

I am one of the few people who do not take so much delight in whether my Church is a Parish or not. But as to whether I am worth calling a parishioner or not. In the first place, it is worth noting that a Church can be described as both a family and a community where members live with the life of Jesus Christ, claiming the One God as their Father.

By that acknowledgment, we share Jesus’ life and mission. We are created and redeemed not for our own benefit alone, but to continue his active presence in our world, keeping alive the hope of eternal life in a world that would rather not acknowledge its need for God.

You see? A family needs a home; a community needs a place to gather so the Church needs a structure. Mind you the Church is not the Structure. Again, When I say structure, I am not talking about the, steel and concrete soon to be consecrated. I am talking about the structure of a community or a family. That is relationships, commitment, fellow feeling are organised to make the life the people happen.

This coming week, as we become a Parish, let these be our guide; Prayer and Spirituality, Stewardship of Time, Involvement and Participation, Stewardship of Talent, Support and Resources and Stewardship of Treasure.

Come to church on Sundays, and also on the holy days of obligation. Come to Confession at least once a year, and receive Communion at least once a year during the Easter season. Join in fast and abstinence during Lent, and provide for the support of the Church through monetary gifts or active service. The Church needs money, I agree, but that is not all there is.

We all cannot and must not have money. So give your service, give your love and be concerned in the life of others. Our faith and love for the house of God must be evident anyway. You know why? Faith is a living thing. If you nourish it through church attendance, service to others and prayer, it will grow and eventually give you a ticket to salvation.

Let us be called as Catholics who do not simply go through the motions. Thus, attend Mass, receive the sacraments, become beneficiaries of the services provided by the parish, and seem to have certain expectations about what’s in it for us, yet have minimal appreciation of how things such as the sacraments, education, formation, lights, heating, cooling, cleanliness, supplies, maintenance, support groups, and a variety of important ministries, are being provided.

What is the root cause of this growing culture, this expectation of service, absent of commitment, support or obligation on the part of a growing percentage of parishioners? Research and experience within the United States and beyond suggests there is a serious lack of spiritual formation and understanding of what is expected of Christians in response to their Baptismal call to discipleship, where stewardship, that of discipleship in action, is understood, practiced and lived as being “The grateful response of a Christian disciple who recognizes and received God’s gifts and shares these gifts in love of God and neighbor.” (Catholic Diocese of Wichita)

What does it mean to be a parishioner? A parishioner can be defined as: One who is registered and actively participates in the liturgical/pastoral life of the parish through the generous, sacrificial and proportionate sharing of his or her God-given giftedness of time, talent and treasure.

As a Catholic and registered parishioner of a parish, I am expected to:

• Regularly attend and participate in Sunday Mass – preferably as a family

• Regularly participate in the sacramental life of the Church

• Develop and practice an ongoing personal/family prayer life

• Witness to the teachings of the Church by one’s manner of living life

• Seek to understand and practice what it means to be and live as an active and committed Christian steward in service to the parish and the wider universal Church

• Commit annually to a generous, sacrificial and proportionate commitment of one’s time, talent and treasure in service to the broad mission of the parish and the wider universal Church without counting the cost or having any expectation of something in return

• Recognize, understand and accept my need to regularly give and share rather than giving and sharing only when there happens to be a need

• Acknowledge, as a registered parishioner, that I am to be a participant in serving the mission of the parish rather than being only a spectator.

• Realize the necessary and ongoing importance of love, generosity, faith and family.

Let us remember, it is only through God’s love that we receive his gift of life. In the course of that gift of life, we are then the recipients of God’s varied grace and giftedness. Through the Sacrament of Baptism, we are called to serve as God’s disciples, sharing, in gratitude, His giftedness and grace in love and service to God and neighbor.

Let me pause here and congratulate us for the feat. I want to say thank you to Rev. Frs. Emmanuel Obeng Cudjoe and Courage Senam Dogbey. Not forgetting all the wonderful priests who have been part of this long journey. Happy anniversary, and may St. Dominic the Preacher Continue to intercede on our behalf. See you on 27th and forget to say hello to someone new.

Columnist: Ernest Senanu Dovlo