Some Guidelines for the Parish Apostolate

Fr General Pedro arrupe, 1979             

Moving beyond the practisng church-goers
The parish is a most valuable apostolate in today's world, and offers great possibilities but, if the parish is to realise its potential, it should not merely be a place where sacraments are administered to a small number of practising Christians.  Rather, it should be a centre where the Word of God is preached and inspires deep probing; where there is a sense of openness to local social, economic and cultural problems.  The parish should be a meeting place for everybody in the district. 

The special concern should be the poor, the working people, the marginalised, the non-believers, and all who are at a distance from the Church.  The parish provides many occasions for accomplishing the service of faith and the promotion of justice.

Creating new types of community
Because of cultural changes, classic geographical parishes do not generally satisfy all the demands made on them today.  Jesuits engaged in the parish apostolate should be creative.  Always maintaining harmonious agreement with the Bishops' directives, they will work to provide spiritual leadership to groupings of a new type, for example the basic communities which bring together people of the same social class or the same profession, or other experimental forms of pastoral ministry.  In addition, in order to respond to the many rapid changes taking place nowadays, the parishes must continually review, evaluate and adapt their methods of apostolate.

Moving outwards
We should also bring a missionary dimension to the parish.  We can encourage the community to be attentive to mission, both inside and outside the framework of ordinary parish activity.  Since parishes tend to become closed in on themselves, we should be on the alert to foster a sense of universality.  We have to be open to the needs of Christians, and indeed of all human beings, beyond our parish boundaries.
Active Role of Parishioners
We may never lose sight of the importance which Vatican II attributes to lay activity in the Christian community.  Without it the apostolate of the parish priest is deprived of its full effectiveness.  We should do all we can to bring all the parishioners to an understanding of their call to the apostolate, which is an element of every Christian vocation.  We must foster dialogue with the laity, and open up the possibilities of a wide variety of parish apostolates in which the laity can readily engage.

Ignatian Spirituality
While faithfully observing the directives of the local bishop, Jesuits working in parishes will follow ways typical of the Society of Jesus:  promoting a Christocentric spirituality, universality, gratitude, a search for the greater glory of God and discernment, through the Spiritual Exercises, Christian Life Communities, Apostleship of Prayer etc.

Where we take the responsibility of a parish, it is essential that this apostolate be well integrated with the whole apostolic progamme of the Jesuit Province.

Fr Tom Jackson SJ at St Paul's Mission, Musami, rural parish in Archdiocese of Harare

Jesuit Fathers Peter Paul Musekiwa, Chrispen Matsilele, Clyde Muropa, Gilbert Banda after ordination at Marlborough parish in city of Harare


Offertory procession at St Rupert's Mission, Makonde

Our Vocation in Parishes

The fundamental vocation and mission of the parish is to be a place in the world for the community of believers, to be a house of welcome to all, and a place of service to all, to be ‘the village well’ to which all would have recourse in their thirst” (Pope John Paul II).
In response to these words, The Jesuits in Zimbabwe  aim at forming the Church as a community of communities by adopting the vision of the Church as the family of God. This image, inspired by the sharing of the Word of God, emphasises care for others, solidarity, warmth in human relationships, acceptance, dialogue and trust. It includes openness to other mainstream churches and indigenous religious movements.

Our people want to experience and celebrate their faith. Their faith must have a bearing on their daily lives and their living together. Looking at Christ, we see that he spent most of his time being with his disciples. They built the first Christian community around Christ. As Jesuits in Zimbabwe, we strive to imitate Christ in being with his people, sharing his love for his people.

Our ministry in parishes proceeds from an experience of God’s personal dealing with each individual, an of God’s generosity which is even greater than the expected (Sp. Exx. #15).

Ignatian spirituality centres on the direct experience of God. So in our parishes we try to help people to have such an experience, by engaging them in a process of reflection and conversation.

We also try to create a deeper awareness of the poor and the marginalised. We encourage parish evaluations of who are the poor?  And how this particular parish can assist them.  In our care of the sick, we include the healing ministry as part of our service.
We also investigate ways in which justice issues can inspire a meaningful parish involvement.

We recognise that our ministry extends from relatively affluent urban parishes, to impoverished rural missions. These differences call us to continue and even intensify our tradition of sharing among ourselves and with the poorer parishes in which we live and work.