Jezreel challenges archdiocesan, parish staff to reach out beyond church walls

| October 27, 2017 | 2 Comments


Jack Jezreel speaks to pastoral ministers about ministering beyond their parish Oct. 26 at Fall Formation Day at Mary, Mother of the Church in Burnsville. Maria Wiering/The Catholic Spirit

Jack Jezreel didn’t want any archdiocesan or parish staff members to be in their comfort zone Oct. 26 at Fall Formation Day.

Jezreel proposed a radical shift in how parishes do ministry — to focus on reaching out to the people in the community outside of the church walls, rather than the people who already show up. The founder of JustFaith Ministries, a Kentucky-based initiative to help people evangelize and serve the poor, didn’t come up with the idea out of thin air. Pope Francis has been calling for this, Jezreel said.

Using quotes from “Evangelii Gaudium,” Jezreel said Pope Francis calls a parish to be a “community of missionary disciples.” Jezreel explained that people need to reach out to all people in their respective towns or cities. He said it’s a call to “displace ourselves.”

“How do we put ourselves in grace’s way?” Jezreel asked rhetorically.

Jezreel pointed out that the perception of the clergy and religious being responsible for evangelization and ministry to the poor and marginalized is “incomplete.” That would mean 99 percent of Catholics have a “passive role” of receiving pastoral care, he said.

He explained that Vatican II recognized that lay people have been called to engage the world in the Catholic faith. He said the council indicated that ministry is to happen “everywhere” and all Catholics are called to witness Christ to the world.

Jezreel reminded the people gathered that Jesus “spent time with the wounded.”

Jezreel highlighted some of the major problems in society such as poverty and the large sex trafficking industry in the United States. He said that “one out of six children doesn’t know if they can eat” on any given day. Such issues call for action by Catholics, he indicated.

“Knowing when to stand, kneel and sit isn’t going to get it done,” Jezreel said.

Most parish programs take place on parish property, he said, illustrating that parishes become too parish-focused instead of ministering in their respective communities. He also pointed out that a parish is responsible for all the souls in its community boundaries — not just the Catholics.

Jezreel said parishes need to avoid the “ecclesial introversion,” which St. John Paul II described during his papacy. The speaker said it calls for a “renewal of structures” in how a parish operates.

Organized by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Fall Formation Day brought together ordained and lay ministers from around the archdiocese to reflect on ideas shaping their work. The day also included a presentation by Ann Garrido on “Redeeming Conflict” and Mass with Archbishop Bernard Hebda and Bishop Andrew Cozzens.


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