The “missionary option” of parishes of the world is at the heart of the “challenge” or “prayer intention” that Pope Francis suggests to Catholics during the month of September 2017.
The Holy Father’s ”missionary intention” is: “That our parishes animated by a missionary spirit may be places where faith is communicated and charity seen.”
In his Apostolic Exhortation (24 November 2013), “Evangelii Gaudium”, Pope Francis shares his dream about the “missionary option” of catholic parishes: “I dream of a “missionary option”, that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation. The renewal of structures demanded by pastoral conversion can only be understood in this light: as part of an effort to make them more mission-oriented, to make ordinary pastoral activity on every level more inclusive and open, to inspire in pastoral workers a constant desire to go forth and in this way to elicit a positive response from all those whom Jesus summons to friendship with himself. As John Paul IIonce said to the Bishops of Oceania: “All renewal in the Church must have mission as its goal if it is not to fall prey to a kind of ecclesial introversion”.” (n.27)
For the Pope, “the parish is not an outdated institution; precisely because it possesses great flexibility, it can assume quite different contours depending on the openness and missionary creativity of the pastor and the community”.(n.28)
“It is a community of communities, a sanctuary where the thirsty come to drink in the midst of their journey, and a centre of constant missionary outreach. We must admit, though, that the call to review and renew our parishes has not yet sufficed to bring them nearer to people, to make them environments of living communion and participation, and to make them completely mission-oriented”, he says. (n.29)
The Pope asks other catholic associations to “not to lose contact with the rich reality of the local parish and to participate readily in the overall pastoral activity of the particular Church”: for “this kind of integration will prevent them from concentrating only on part of the Gospel or the Church, or becoming nomads without roots”.(n.29)
Each month the Pope entrusts prayer intentions to his Worldwide Prayer Network, the Apostleship of Prayer. These intentions express his great concern for humanity and the mission of the Church. His monthly prayer intention (one month is universal and the next month is for evangelization) is a global call to transform our prayer into “concrete gestures” of service. It is a monthly action plan mobilizing us to work together to build a more human and caring world.