A group of people, led by a young man with vision, set about building a sandcastle. At first the people were cautious saying "we don't know anything about building sandcastles." But the young man encouraged them and gradually they found they were all good at different aspects of sandcastle building. Some were good at piling the sand, others could carry the sand, still others would bring the water to dampen the sand when needed, others could shape and mould the sand. Some were good at digging tunnels and others collected shells and bits of flotsam and driftwood to beautify the castle. Some people preferred to just watch and enjoy the process and occasionally they were asked to move a couple of grains of sand so that they felt involved in the project without too much effort, with the result that having accomplished that they would then try something a little more difficult.
With much hard work and love and care the sandcastle took shape and the people were united in their endeavours and the joy they shared in their accomplishments. Many visitors would pass by and admire and praise the beautiful sandcastle.
After some time the young man told the people he felt he needed to help some other people build a sandcastle. "What will become of our beautiful sandcastle?" they cried. The young man assured them that together they were all sandcastle builders and they would be able to continue without him and that a new leader would be sent to help them. The people agreed it would be good for another sandcastle as beautiful as theirs to be built and for others to have what they had. So they sadly farewelled their Sandcastle architect.
The new leader arrived, looked over the sandcastle and said "I don't like that bit" and knocked down a beautiful turret with the result that another piece fell as well. When the people protested he said "I'm so sorry I didn't know you wanted that bit, you should have told me. Oh well too late." He was a bully and he continued to destroy the sandcastle. He even had the gall to ask the people to help him destroy what they had so lovingly built.
The sandcastle builders watched all their hard work being stomped on and crumbling and they turned away from the sandcastle heartbroken and disillusioned. They had learned a harsh lesson. Sandcastle building is an illusion at the whim of bullies and they wondered if they would ever have the heart to build a sandcastle again. Many haven't.
I wrote Sandcastles as a way of expressing the hurt that was felt, not only by me and my family, but many parishioners when our Parish Priest was moved to a new parish. His true gift was to "empower" others by recognizing their gifts and then encouraging them to use them, without needing to be in "control" of every aspect of parish life. I cannot think of one apostolate, from Legion of Mary, Rosary cenacles, Mothers' play groups to Family Groups, Social Justice Groups to Liturgy Committees and busy RCIA processes, Youth Groups and Children's Liturgy of the Word. Not one aspect of Catholicism was not covered by one group or another. We had ministers for rosters that only got a turn once a month, with a four Mass Sunday … our cup runneth over.
The new "collaborative" priest that was sent as replacement Parish Priest destroyed a thriving parish community in less than 3 months. He was gone within 12 … after driving half the parish away and closing so many of the groups therein. There have been 3 other PP's since then (about 6 years) and the pews are so empty that the parish "income" is financially diminished to such an extent, that this year, they could not afford to re-new the contract for the excellent Religious Pastoral Assistant that had worked tirelessly through all these priest changes. The work this woman did was exactly the sort of thing that brought people back to the pews. Talk about false economy!
This "allegory" I guess you'd call it, was printed in the RCIA Network News and many people said "I know what parish that was! I bet it was St. So & So's"...but in fact they were thinking of other parishes and not the one written about. I then realised that so many people had undergone the same experience!
In hindsight, our thriving parish community would have been better off without a priest than the destroyer that was sent to us. The people would have carried on just as they had been empowered to do. Daily Eucharist would have been replaced by Services of the Word with Communion and Sunday Eucharist would have been a community event with or without a priest. Yes a priest from some "community" or locum type would have had to be brought in to confect the Eucharist at some points in time and to hear confessions I guess or the people would have had to travel to nearby parishes to go to reconciliation. Many parishes had to do that then anyway.
Or perhaps "consistent" mediocrity, where one never experiences the "what could be" with a little effort, is what is called for. Don't let the good ones influence the plebs. People don't miss what they never had.
Priests on contracts need to understand that they are
merely passing through a community...
Priests on contracts, whether for 12 months or 6 years, need to understand that they are merely passing through a community. Yes the community wants to include them and welcome them, but after they have gone, the community will still be there, and constant changes by "Power Mad" or "Control Freak" clerics causes a distressing amount of damage. They are Kings of all they survey and even the Bishop really has no control over what they do once they are installed as 'Parish Priest.' As I said last week power and love cannot co-exist.
To our wonderful priests, like our Sandcastle builder, I thank and praise God for you. For the others it is time to realise you are servants of God and God's people deserve better than your desire to "rule". Lead us please, from the back, with a light to show us the path. Not from the front with edicts and directions on what and how to do EVERYTHING. If we make mistakes, and we are human so we will, then teach us.
Remember the saying "the Church does not have a mission, THE MISSION has a church." That's us guys! That's us!
The image used as background to the sandcastle story came from stock.xchng the free web photo source – www.sxc.hu. Photographer: Lisa, Honolulu, Hawai
KateD is another of the original gang from the CathNews discussion board which became a close-knit international cyber community. She continues to tease us with her Elle avatar and so we continue the tradition in this new forum. Kate lives on the central coast of NSW and has had an active involvement in RCIA and liturgical endeavours at parish and diocesan level.
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