From time to time some parishes will develop their own mission statements. It is not necessary and, therefore, not every parish does so.
The idea of a parish mission statement is relatively new. Though not necessary, at times the practice of developing a mission statement can be helpful. However, in other instances it can be problematic.
How can a parish mission statement be problematic? To answer that question we must remember that parishes are not self-defining institutions. They are not like services clubs in which a group of like minded individuals get together and establish a structure and purpose for their organization. Parishes are established by the Church with a pre-established purpose. It is similar to the way in which a nation might establish branches of the military. Though each branch is distinct, they all share a common purpose or mission—defense of the nation.
Parishes, too, have a common purpose of mission. We can look to the Catechism of the Catholic Church for this. There we read that a parish “is the place where all the faithful can be gathered together for the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist. The parish initiates the Christian people into the ordinary expression of the liturgical life: it gathers them together in this celebration; it teaches Christ’s saving doctrine; it practices the charity of the Lord in good works and brotherly love.” Therefore, the mission of a parish is to gather Christians together for worship, to teach saving truth, and to practice love in service.
So if the purpose of a parish has already been clearly established by the Church, what value would their be in a mission statement? Going back to the branches of a military, though each branch has the same general mission, the branches fulfill that mission in different ways. This is also true for parishes. Though a parish mission statement does not seek to answer the why of a parish’s existence, it can help to explain more fully how its purpose is fulfilled.
For example, all parishes are called to practice “the charity of the Lord in good works and brotherly love.” However, each parish can achieve that in different ways. One parish might focus on providing food for the poor. Another parish might focus on securing the rights of the unborn.
Once again, all parishes have the mission of teaching “Christ’s saving doctrine.” One parish might focus on family faith formation activities. Other parishes, as is the case for us in Walla Walla, provide Catholics schools for all children grades K-12.
Therefore, though every parish throughout the world has the same general mission statement, each fulfills that mission in different ways.
Praised be Jesus Christ!