SCC’s : Source of Strength for Families.
Pope Francis, addressing the participants of the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Family in October 2013, stated the “family is the engine of the world and of history.” A few days later, he announced the plan to begin a discernment process on the pastoral care of families, sending out the Lineamenta for the III Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family in October 2014, and the XIV Ordinary Synod of Bishops in October 2015. The welfare of the family is decisive for the future of the world, and that of the Church (Amoris Loetitia31). “ Aware that the well-being of society and her own good are intimately tied to the good of the family, (Gaudium et Spes 47). The Church has a duty to journey with the family at every stage of its development.
Therefore, it must be emphasized once more that the pastoral intervention of the Church in support of the family is a matter of urgency. Every effort should be made to strengthen and develop pastoral care for the family, which should be treated as a real matter of priority, in the certainty that future evangelisation depends largely on the domestic Church. (cf. John Paul II, Address to the Third General Assembly of the Bishops of Latin America, January 28, 1979)
If we want a strong parish church, then we need to have vibrant Small Christian Communities (SCCs) and strong domestic churches. This is possible when we have strong and healthy families.
Effective Pastoral Care needs a “Family Perspective”
We need to keep the family in focus in our pastoral planning in Church set-ups at parish and at the SCC level. We could define this approach of consciously strengthening the foundation of the Church and society as the ‘family perspective in pastoral planning’ Keep your end goal in mind- strengthen the family in every initiative we take in the parish and SCC.
The Church is aware of the current reality of the family
The Church acknowledges the many threats that the family, as an institutions faces in our times from the: from the materialistic influence of technology and communication, to poor value education at home, caused by both parents working long hours to keep up with the rising costs of living. Besides this, we have the family’s income generation choices of overseas and call centre jobs. There is also growing pressure on young people, living in multi- religious countries like India, to choose marriage partners of other faiths, and as a consequence, they could lose their own faith and the opportunity to share Jesus with their children. All these threats are closing in around the Christian family unit, causing it to succumb to the pressures of the world.
The two recent Synods on the Family highlighted the challenges families face around the world. The Church knows the travails of the family. Guided by Pope Francis in his several teachings and now in Amoris Laetitia [AL] – the Apostolic Exhortation on love in the Family, and St. John Paul II’s vision expressed in Familiaris Consortio [FC] – the foundational document on Family – must choose to respond in love and action.
Church’s Vision and Mission for the Family
The Church is a family of families, constantly enriched by the lives of all these domestic churches. “ In virtue of the sacrament of Matrimony, every family becomes , in effect, a good for the Church. From this standpoint, reflecting on the interplay between the family and the Church will provide a precious gift for the Church in our time. The Church is good for the family, and the family is good for the Church. The safeguarding of the Lord’s gift in the sacrament of Matrimony is a concern not only of individual families, but of the entire Christian community (cf. AL87).
Every family is constantly called to participate in the mission of the Church and its mission and Identity is deeply rooted in the ‘Divine Trinity. The experience of love in families is a perennial source of strength for the life of the Church. “The unitive end of marriage is a constant summons to make this love grow and deepen. Through their union in love, the couple experiences the beauty of fatherhood and motherhood, and shares plans, trails, expectations and concerns ; they learn care for one another and mutual forgiveness. In this love, they celebrate their happy moments and support each other in the difficult passages of their life together… The beauty of this mutual, gratuitous gift , the joy which comes from a life that is born and the loving care of all family members – from toddlers to seniors –are just a few of the fruits which make the response to the fruits which make the response to the fruits which make the response to the vocation of the family unique and irreplaceable “ , both the for church and for society as a whole” ( cf.AL 88). St John Paul II in families consortio (#17) stated the every particular task of the family is an expression of the family’s mission. He spelt out the four general tasks for family as :
a) The family is to form a community of persons in mutual self – giving
b) The family is to serve life in its transmission, both physically in bringing children into the world and spiritually by transmitting values and traditions throughout its life cycle.
c) The family is to participate in the development of society by :
· Becoming a school of social life
· Becoming community of hospitality
· Becoming politically active
d) The family is to share in the life and mission of the Church by:
· Becoming a believing and evangelising community
· Becoming a community in dialogue with God
· Becoming a community in service to humankind.
Helping families realise their mission
The Parish Priest, Parish Pastoral Council (PPC), Cells and Associations firstly need to understand the mission of the basic unit of the Church, and support the family to translate this mission into reality.
In order to be realistic and effective, there is a need for a continuous evangelisation of marriage and the family, fostering relevant initiatives in individual families, in groups of families (Small Christian Communities- SSCs) and in all parish and diocesan communities. Some of these initiatives are remote, proximate and immediate preparation for marriage, the education of education of children with Christian values, the ongoing formation of married couples, parents, youth,etc.
As families expect to receive from the community, they are also expected to give back, as its conjugal apostolate to other couples in the same community. In addition to being fruitful as biological , adoptive or foster parents, Christian couples are also called to be fruitful in the Church community, in the context that the whole Church is an evangelised and evangelising community.
Parish structure at the service of the family
Every diocese, and in more particular terms, every parish community, must become more vividly aware of the grace and responsibility that it receives from the Lord in order that it may promote the pastoral care of the family. No plan for organised pastoral work, at any level, must ever fail to take into consideration the pastoral care of the family (cf.FC,70). The parish church is a community of communities, and small Christian Communities (SCCs) should be a source of strength for families to live their mission in their own homes and neighbourhood communities. Therefore, if we went a strong parish church, then we need to have vibrant SCCs and strong families at the grassroots. Let us support families in order to build vibrant communities and strong parishes.
Article Courtesy in “The Examiner” dated :24th August 2019.
Fr Cajetan D. Menezes is Managing Trustee of Kripa Foundation
and former Director of the Family Apostolate (Bombay Archdiocese)