A total of 86 Ministry and BEC leaders as well as some interested parishioners turned up on a Saturday morning to listen to Deacon Johnathan on the theme Mission for Christ on the 18th May. This formation was organized based on the parish’s focus on the Scripture to guide leaders in their work in the ministries.
Deacon Lazarus began by stressing the importance of unity within our community. It is something that needs to be worked on and not taken for granted. He then asked the audience to list the qualities of a leader and what were their feelings about their own leadership in the parish. He stressed that whatever feelings we had, be it positive or negative, they were all felt by Jesus especially as he had willing allowed to be hung on the cross.
Next, a question was posed on what the leaders thought their mission in the church is today. What difference has Jesus made in our lives? Do we live each day? He reiterated that a parish dies if it not on mission. He then went on to say that one does not have to be religiously high standing in the Church to carry out the Lord’s mission. To prove this point he compared Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman at the well (John 3:1-10). Nicodemus was a man (higher standing in a Jewish community), he is named, a Jew, considered righteous, honoured and educated. In contrast, the woman was not named, a Samaritan, an outcast and uneducated. Yet she went on to proclaim the Lord to others just as well as Nicodemus.
There were also many other things to consider as a leader. Are you a religious or spiritual leader? Do you believe that the purpose of proclaiming Jesus is to comfort the disturbed and to disturb the comfortable? Are you a nobody telling everybody about somebody who can change anybody? Are you a joyful martyr? Lastly, are you meeting a need of God’s or man’s mission? These provoking questions gave the audience some things to reflect on.
Deacon Lazarus then went on to list the common qualities of a Catholic leader. These include the continued growth and sharing of the faith. The awareness of God’s grace and responding to it. A commitment to liturgical sacramental life and moral teachings. Strength of character based on patience, responsibility, confidence and creativity. A generosity of spirit, respect for diversity and a habit of hospitality. An ability to plan, organize and work well with others.
He also listed the things a Catholic leader should do. To promote the faith knowledge and moral formation, know how to teach others how to pray and prepare for life in a community. Lastly, to promote a missionary spirit. He said that there was a difference of Being and Doing. It was important that there is no dichotomy between the two and it must flow from the heart. He also explained that learning is at two levels. One is at the intellectual or head level. The other is at the heart level. The latter brings about transformation and is active not passive. He reminded all that the Church’s mission is Evangelization. He went on to say that as leaders we need to go outside the Church to evangelize. To move out of our comfort zone and reach out to others in need of the Word of God. This involves helping others have an encounter with Jesus.To illustrate how to go about this he gave an analogy of the rules of fishing. One needs to have patience, be able to brave the winds and rough seas, know where the fish are biting, use the right bait and lastly if the fish sees the fisherman, it won’t bite (namely we should show the face of Jesus not our own). In conclusion, he mentioned that we must be sure we have trained others to take over from us before we reach outside the Church. In order to be able to successfully do this we need to employ the help of God through the power of prayer.
Deacon Lazarus reminded the leaders not to be discouraged or disheartened when faced with the challenges of rejection, lack of people coming forward to help or the lack of participation in activities. Jesus faced the same challenges. Just like Jesus, we only need to be faithful to the will of the Father. He said we need to pray for ways to overcome these challenges and be specific in naming people we would like to respond to our invitation to help or lead in the ministries. He reminded us that God is Big, do not make him small. He reiterated that a new ministry should only be started if we had new members to take charge. The present leaders should not be over burden with new responsibilities.
This formation gave the audience much to reflect on their own practices, their shortcomings and strengths as well as the effectiveness of the way they lead others within the ministries and the BECs. It made everyone be more aware of their responsibilities, the qualities they need to attain and the creative ways they should go about leading others to Jesus. Many felt blessed to gain this insight on their roles in evangelization and a powerful feeling of the presence of God in their lives as they perform their work in and outside the Church.
Dr Ivan Filmer
26th May, 2018.