The Church and self-reliance
Since 2007 the Church in Southern Africa (i.e. the SACBC and IMBISA territories) has been committed to self-reliance in the three key areas of providing personnel, infrastructure and finances needed to be a sustainable project. It is gratifying to note that there has been considerable progress in all three areas in the Archdiocese. Even those deep rural parishes which in the past were fully subsidized have taken on the responsibility of meeting some of the basic costs like insurance, motor vehicle repairs, tracker premiums, etc.
Obviously it has taken a concerted effort on the part of the parish priest to get his parishioners to assume greater responsibility. Where this has happened it was because the priest provided formation and instruction.
It is also obvious that the parishes where there has been greatest progress toward self –reliance are the ones where there has been more openness and accountability, i.e. where there is a well informed and well formed parish finance committee, parish pastoral council and parish priest.
Where there has been little or no progress is where the parish priest has not adopted either the vision or the policy of the Archdiocese, and has continued to do things his own way. In other words, where he has not yet instilled in his people the sense of giving being part of being a Christian.
For instance it would appear that there are parishes or outstations where Isondlo is still fixed by the priest at x Rands per month. While that system was in force the people saw it as giving a token to an organization that lives off the income it derives from elsewhere.
There is no place for such a delusion in the Church today. We have to see ourselves as a Church that must develop and move progressively towards a culture that is characterized by what someone described as “the need to give”. In other words, a culture like that practiced by the widow whom Jesus used as an example of how to give from what you need rather than from what is extra.
For those who need Scripture passages to convince them to change there are: Jesus’ use of “the widow who gave all that she had to live on”; St Paul’s frequent reference to the poor communities in the diaspora who gave generously towards the assistance of the Church in Jerusalem and in other better off parts.
In the old days, the Church sought to cultivate such a culture based on “the need to give” by making “contributing to the upkeep of the priest and the Church” one of the Six Precepts of the Church, which were regarded as second to the Ten Commandments in the order of being a good Catholic.