Build Community


I’ve been working on a history book, alongside a priest from my diocese, for our upcoming diocesan centenary and as I’ve been writing chapters about the foundation of local parishes I’ve found myself lamenting days gone by.

Ah, you say, the grass is always greener and I couldn’t agree more. No, I am not saying that I wish to go back to the days of roads that were impassable for months of the year meaning that some areas were without the Sacraments between May and November each year, and that even when they had access to it, Mass was only offered every 4-6 weeks in their area.

But the tales of community that I read are inspiring.

Churches were built by parishioners, on land donated to the Church or bought by the Church for a pittance from parishioners. The Church was the social and spiritual hub of the community.

Certainly much of the fun, think balls, fetes and so on, was for fundraising to build the infrastructure or carry out much needed maintenance but it was still a way for parishioners to come together, and work together for the common good as well as enjoying themselves and establishing friendships that would continue for generations.

We do not have that sort of community in our parishes now. And there is a certain amount of defeatism about that, the recent popularity of Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option only solidifies this in my mind.

The social fundraising has been replaced by Planned Giving, not a bad things in itself, but the weekly deposit of a pre-arranged amount into the basket at Mass is not quite the same as getting dressed up and attending a ball or gala dinner.

Despite the changes that have occurred in parishes since these early pioneering accounts, we are not prevented from establishing our own communities, strengthening the ties to the parish that we already attend.

What can you do? Well, here’s a list of how you can build community:

Pray and Discern – building a community takes a lot of prayer, work and effort. Remember that while some of these ‘hurdles’ may seem human in origin, the Devil does not want to see these communities flourish. Do not be discouraged – trust in God to guide you.

Start Small – after our initial ‘village’ initiative a few years ago we formed a mother’s group locally. This group continues to adapt, grow and flourish. Directly from this one activity we have had spring up a book club and playgroup. From inside this same network is organised a monthly recollection for women, coordinated by a local mum. Our husbands, keen not to be left out, initiated a men’s group which meets once a month either for Mass and then a social activity like ten pin bowling, or dinner at a pub and a spiritual reflection from a priest. As this group continues to expand we are now looking at running Catholic Clubs for kids and a revamped family group.

Tap into existing structures – perhaps there are already similar groups in your area. Instead of creating something new, use and expand on what’s already happening.

Help out – being part of a community is a bit like being a part of a marriage, not everyone is strong at the same time. Support each other and take turns to lead and share the burden. You’ll all be the better for it.

Centre on Christ – make your community centred on Christ and the rest will follow.




Filed Under: FaithFeaturedSocial Issues

About the Author: Emily is a former ACPA award winning editor and journalist turned stay at home mum and blogger. She lives on a farm in regional NSW with her husband and their five children where she spends the time she should be doing housework reading books and writing posts.

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