Last weekend, along with all the rest of the priests serving in this Diocese, I attended the impressively titled “Course over Matrimony and Family in Reference to Ex. Ap. (Apostolic Exortation) Amoris Laetitia for Bishops, Priests, Judicial Vicars (Canonist), and permanent Deacons and lay people who collaborate with Family Life and Tribunal.” This impressively, if cumbersomely, titled workshop was presented by Msgr. Pio Vito Pinto, who is the Dean of the Roman Rota. The Roman Rota is the highest court in the Church, kind of like the Supreme Court, and Msgr. Pinto is like a Supreme Court Judge. Since I have learned from an early age that if you can’t say something nice about a person or event then it is better to say nothing at all, I will pass over this workshop in silence.
However, being with my brother priests all weekend at this event, I was struck again at the firmly held opinion of the great majority of the presbyterate of this diocese that St. Austin is a very liberal parish. Indeed, we are viewed as a roiling caldron of far left liberalism. I find this most curious, and actually rather entertaining, since it is so far from my own experience here.
Do you think we are a liberal parish??? I don’t. I have experienced some liberal parishes in my nearly 40 years as a priest, and I am pretty sure we do not make the grade. Perhaps our proximity to the University of Texas, which is far and wide regarded as the (last?) bastion of liberalism in this state, causes us to appear more liberal than we really are. Perhaps because we are rather lax about some of the niceties of liturgical law we are viewed as liberal, but this has everything to do with laziness and making things convenient for ourselves, and nothing to do with ideology.
I hope that we are experienced as a friendly parish. But friendliness has nothing to do with being liberal, as I have experienced some very un-friendly liberal parishes, and some conservative parishes that were most warm and friendly. I think of us as pretty much middle-of-the-road on liturgy and ecclesiology.
All this got me thinking about how I wish we were perceived. What image, thought, or feeling would I wish to come to people’s minds when they think of St. Austin Parish? Well, I would like for them to think of us as friendly and welcoming. Open to diversity. Willing to embrace both Left, Right and Center. A community that puts into action its concern for those in need. A generous community. A joyful community that embodies Pope Francis’ Encyclical on the Joy of the Gospel. Ultimately and mostly, a community that is true to our mission statement on the front of the bulletin, a community that evangelizes, that spreads the Good News.
How do you experience St. Austin Parish, and how would you like to experience this parish? What can we do to better fulfill our mission?