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PARISH

95 THE MEANING OF THE PARISH STRUCTURE

In the light of what we have said we can define the parish as the de facto local community structure whose function is to manifest and express the community's striving toward the fullness of the communion of saints. Once we have said this, however, it becomes apparent that anyone who is asking for a theology of the parish is asking the wrong question. One should not ask for a theological explanation of our present ter· ritorial or national parishes. Rather, one must ask whether the parish structure as now existing truly realizes the goal that a structure is supposed to realize in the local community. Does the present structure really manifest and foster the mission of the local Church to strengthen its interior bonds and to go out in service to the whole world? Before attempting to answer this question, I would like to make three general remarks: structures are necessarily im· perfect; in a changing world such as we are now living in structures need changing; in the Church and the real need of structural changes faces a peculiar difficulty. First of all, structures are necessarily imperfect. A struc· ture is a finite expression of a communal reality composed of finite creatures. A finite creature can never express him· self perfectly; he can not, as it were, pour his total being into a verbal or material expression. Every sentence that he utters cannot possibly convey all the subtle nuamces of his thought; nor can any single activity of his person reveal com· pletely the inner workings of his heart and mind. If this is true of the individual, how much more does it apply_ to a group of individuals. Thus, there is not and there cannot be some ideal perfect structure that will fully express all the strivings of the local Church at any moment of time. Hence, the task with regard to structures is not to make them perfect, for that is impossible, but to continuously aim at making them less im· perfect. Secondly, in a changing world such as we now inhabit struc· tures must be continuously changed. Structures reflect or are supposed to reflect real men and real needs. The fact ts,

Profile for Chicago Studies

Spring 1968  

Volume 7:1

Spring 1968  

Volume 7:1

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