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Bishops' Secretary says parish communication gaps warrant concern

Parishes need better internal communications if they are to be an effective sign of Christ's presence in the world, according to the General Secretary of the Australian Bishops' Conference Fr Brian Lucas.

Online Catholics today quotes an article in the most recent Australasian Catholic Record in which Fr Lucas argues that there are a number of impediments to good communication in Australian parishes that are sufficiently widespread to warrant concern.

He mentions:
lack of visibility and participation in parish events by priests and pastoral leaders
a projection of 'busyness' that discourages communication
poor contactability - demonstrated by overuse of answering machines and 'blocking' by secretarial staff
failure to attend to messages and correspondence
poor homiletic skills
unwillingness to embrace modern information technology
"a sometimes domineering and controlling personality"
lack of willingness by clergy to permit and trust in lay participation

Fr Lucas is a priest of the Archdiocese of Sydney who has held the Canberra-based position of General Secretary of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference since 2002.

He notes that there is evidence of poor interpersonal relationships with parishioners apart from a highly committed and involved lay 'elite' in some instances.

Where there is poor internal communication, there will be poor external communication. When this is the case it is unlikely that such a parish will be effective in evangelising new members or re-evangelising less committed Catholics.

Fr Lucas recommends that where a parish priest does not provide sufficient leadership, lay people ought to undertake responsibility for the formation of a 'communicating community'.

"The respective roles of laity and clergy need to be respected but all parish life is not necessarily dependent upon clerical leadership or approbation. The laity have a natural right to form associations," Fr Lucas writes.

"Parishioners themselves need to understand that they have a role and a responsibility to participate in the Church's mission and that it is not a case of being passive and allowing all activity to be directed by the clergy or Church professionals."

Fr Lucas encourages the formation of small groups, in models such as the Passionist Family Group Movement, to develop internal support networks. A parish with a number of committed small groups, based on friendship, may call on one another for support and assistance. Such groups are well placed to provide the foundation for evangelisation in the wider society.

Parishes need better communications (Online Catholics 17/11/04)

Australian Catholic Bishops Conference - General Secretariat
Catholic Administration Conference: Fr Brian Lucas
Passionist Family Group Movement

17 Nov 2004