Pastor’s Corner for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, by Fr. Bruce Botha SJ

“We pray that parishes, placing communion at the centre, may increasingly become communities of faith, fraternity and welcome towards those most in need.”


On our parish Facebook page you can find a link to the video promoting Pope Francis’ prayer intention for February. In his prayer intention video he asks parishes to truly be communities: places of listening and welcome whose doors are always open to all, no one excluded. Pope Francis notes that every parish should to put a sign on their door saying, “Free Admission”.


In a press release accompanying the second prayer intention of 2023,  the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer network explains that with these words Pope Francis wants to remind all of us that there are no special requirements for entering, because, as he says, “parishes are not a club for the few, which give a certain kind of social belonging.” It is the vision of Pope Francis that parishes are “close-knit communities, without bureaucracy, people-centered — a place where the gift of the Sacraments can be found.”


This idea is conveyed by the images of the video coming from parishes around the world, which show get-togethers, talks, the distribution of aid to those most in need, visits to the elderly and the sick, pageants, and internal or external events. It is interesting to note that the images stitched together are non-liturgical, as though he were trying to impress on us that community is more than just the liturgical assembly.


In his video, Pope Francis insists on this idea of parishes continuing along the path of being a center of welcome and listening: “They have to become once again schools of service and generosity, with their doors always open to those who are excluded. And to those included. To all.” We can succeed , the Pope says, by being “daring”: rethinking “the style of our parochial communities” and “placing communion – communion of people, ecclesial communion – at the center.”


Pope Francis had already highlighted the centrality of the parish in making the Church closer to the people. In his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium he noted that parishes have the peculiarity of being “the Church living in the midst of the homes of her sons and daughters”, and therefore should not become “a useless structure out of touch with people or a self-absorbed group made up of a chosen few”.


Fr. Bruce Botha SJ