The conversation was around success – has the leadership of the parish been successful in its mission to address the pastoral priorities created in our pastoral assemblies? The most recent priorities include responding to 1) needs of youth; 2) issues of domestic violence, including violence in the streets; 3) injustices against the immigrants; 4) reaching out to animate other agencies and churches; and 5) creating new leadership in the community.
The person who asked if in fact we had seen any success in the last twenty years of parish life is engaged in the current series of weekly leadership sessions our parish sponsors. These sessions are attended by those nominated at our November Pastoral Assembly and who are considered to have leadership potential in our parish. They are nominated with a criteria developed by previous parish leaders, and the hope is that by attending “leadership sessions” we will better respond together to “the hopes and the dreams, the joys and the anxieties of the followers of Christ” (Guadium Et Spes, Vatican II).
As the group of 15 or so spoke about success, we wondered how we might define success. Certainly, we would say the parish mission is successful if there was not a single gunshot in the night, every child and youth were doing well in school, and every family lived with peace in their home! But would we say we were successful in all these years if only one youth graduated from college, one immigrant found justice, one family turned away from violence, one agency saw it’s mission beyond its own nose? Then if not one, how many stories would you require to speak of success? (In fact, there are many, many stories if we pay close attention and listen to true leaders.)
Finally, though, I had to ask if the crucifixion of Christ was successful. The violence of the moment, the abandonment by his friends, the tragedy of it all… one could easily think that Jesus was not very successful.
Perhaps success is not always measured by numbers or what we think we might have accomplished. Success might be better measured by the fire we feel in our hearts to make a difference in the lives of others. And where two or three are gathered, we begin the story of Christ again and again. Every day, there is a youth living in fear of getting killed, a child needing to get into school, an immigrant trying to survive – the success of the mission depends on us to provide them with a helpful way to live. It might also be helpful to remember an adapted quote I use when thinking about success, “Sometimes the object of the Lenten journey is not the end, but the journey itself.”
Fr. Bruce Wellems, CMF