Unity is one of the “marks” of the Church and one of Jesus’ deepest desires. He spoke about the desire for unity over and over again at the Last Supper. “I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.” (Jn. 17) Our unity is a powerful sign of the presence of God and, apparently, disunity is a counter sign.
As the People of God, we live in the world, a world that is fractured and divided, without cohesion or a sense of wholeness. The reasons for the disunity are legion, but no one can doubt how frayed and tattered are our relations with one another on the local, national and international level. But this is exactly the point where our unity and harmony can speak volumes to a world torn by dissension and disagreements. But, if the truth be told, unity and harmony, even among Christians, is difficult to achieve. Catholic parishes find it difficult to work together. This has to be the spirit of the world seeping into our way of life. In order for the Body of Christ to come to the unity Jesus most deeply desires, a great deal of dying to self has to take place.
On the other hand, I see some positive signs of unity in our collaboration with the Holy Cross Academy parishes, our cooperative PSR program with St. Michael the Archangel. St. George and St. Dominic’s have had great success in our joint Athletic Association. The Affton Christian Food Pantry is another good illustration of what happens when we look beyond the boundaries of our parish and work together with other people of good will to accomplish our mission. We are working with St. Michael’s in Shrewsbury and St. Mark’s on the cooperative RCIA program. The St. George PSR program is now operating on our campus.
As we move forward with parish planning, I have asked the vision team to consider how we can prepare now for that time in the near future when we will have one priest available between the two parishes. It is my hope that we can design a vital future for our community, rather than stand by and hope that the demographic changes in our area and the priest shortage (which I have mentioned from time to time in this column), don’t overtake us and dictate what our life together will be.
The history of the Church is such that we wait until it is too late to address in an effective way the changes that are going on around us. Thirty years ago, people with expertise in strategic planning were describing the changes that are occurring now around us in the Affton-Lemay area. There still remains plenty of time and plenty of resources within our two faith communities to be a vital Catholic presence, but we have to design a plan, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit to meet the challenges before us. Like every other journey of faith, this is going to take Faith, good-will, self-sacrifice, prayer, charity, generosity on the part of all of us and steadfast resistance to the “spirit of the world” that seeks to divide
and compete and look after my own self-interest
Sacred heart of Jesus, pray for us,
Fr. Paul Rothschild