ColumnsDisciple’s Corner

Looking or being ‘busy’ does not mean a parish is fulfilling its mission

I’m guessing that there are very few of us who would not admit that at one time or another we missed giving adequate attention and time to some important family occasion because we were too busy with something else.

Joe Paprocki says parishes do the same thing. They get so busy that they shortchange the really important reason for why they exist – to bring people to Jesus Christ, celebrating his life, death and resurrection and his transforming presence among us.

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Paparocki warns that “a church on the move” should not be confused with “a church that has a lot of moving parts.” He says a parish can look busy, but at the same time be ignoring its spiritual well­being.

Instead, a church that is truly on the move needs to have “a laser-sharp focus” on its priorities and its mission.

I think this is important advice for all of us, and particularly for families, because it’s really easy to lose track of what’s important in all of the busyness and competing responsibilities which surround us.

We all might benefit from Paprocki’s advice that parishes learn to distinguish between what’s important (what contributes directly to our mission or goal) and what’s urgent (what seems important right now, but doesn’t contribute much to our ultimate purpose).

The implication here, whether for parishes or families, is that what’s truly important takes time and develops gradually as the result of constant and consistent awareness and effort, day after day, week after week. The success of that effort is harmed if we get too distracted by lots of other things along the way.

Now I know it’s easy to argue that in some sense almost everything contributes to our mission or goal, and the fact is, that’s probably true — more or less. But some things are more important than others, and their impact is more directly related to the mission; others, while valuable, are less important and less direct, and may sometimes actually distract from the more important things. And some, too, may benefit a few at the expense of the whole, which is always a danger in community.

The bottom line is, whether as parishes or families, we should measure what we are so busy doing against our mission or purpose as parishes or families, which of course presumes that we know and understand the mission.

If we are clear about our purpose or goal, then it’s easier to decide how much time and effort we should invest in any particular activity; it we aren’t, I think we can end up being very busy about things which may or may not be really important.

What do you think?

 Learn More

Find suggestions on how to develop a Family Mission Statement for the Domestic Church at

 Pray and Reflect

Use one or more of the following questions for personal reflection, group discussion or private journaling:

  • On a scale of 1 (low) to 5 (high) rate how clear your family (or classroom) mission is. How would you have rated this five years ago?
  • In your own experience, have you found it difficult to decide what’s important and what’s urgent? If so, why? How do you end up deciding between what’s important and what only seems important? What would you have to do to make better choices? What are you doing to help your children, grandchildren or students discern between what’s important and what seems important?
  • I think the most important thing is….

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Add your comments to this week’s discussion at

Dave Cushing is director of adult faith formation for the Catholic parishes in Waterloo. The Disciple’s Corner is sponsored by the Archdiocese of Dubuque’s Office of Faith Formation and Education and is funded through the Archdiocesan Educational Development Board. It is designed to help catechists, teachers, parents, grandparents, guardians and other adults grow in their appreciation of their role as disciples of Jesus Christ.