Tuesday, July 25, 2006

GUARDING UNITY by Kathi Scarpace

Sometimes pastoral minister involves working with people who are overzealous. People with the best of intentions can limit or scare away volunteers. A ministry schedule, the way a ministry is done, or who is providing the ministry, can become the source of conflict and even hostility.

This is real life in the parish. At times good-intentioned people can actually harm or disrupt the community.

The unity of the parish is so important. My experience has taught me to listen and to try to honor everyone involved in ministry. I try to recognize the good heart of the people who are being controlling. I also try to be welcoming to everyone who wants to be involved in ministry. It is a delicate balance.

It means taking the sacraments, the liturgy, and the service to the poor seriously and ensuring that it is done as well as possible. It also means not taking it so seriously that only a few people are “ good enough.”

I keep in mind that we are all unworthy servants. Keeping the unity of the parish as the goal helps to guide me through the minefield of feelings, expectations and misunderstandings that can arise between people.

Unity of mind and heart is part of Paul’s message to his beloved Philippians: “ …complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking of one thing. Do nothing out of selfishness or vainglory; rather humbly regard others as more important that yourselves….” (Phil 2:2–3).

Paul’s words present the ideal. Unity and love are signs that the community is living in the Spirit.

As parish leaders, safeguarding unity is a challenging task. It means loving difficult people in trying situations. It means stepping aside at times. It means delicately suggesting alternative ways of viewing a situation. It means constantly checking my attitude and motives in my work.

Am I building or disrupting community life? When is the right time to say something to someone? Who needs to be encouraged? Who needs a word of caution?

Lord, I am not worthy is my constant prayer.

(Click here to view the rest of the many wonderful articles that await you in www.ParishWorld.net, America's Catholic Lifestyle Magazine)

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