The Saint-Nazaire church is another example of parish missionary transformation. Located in Sanary-sur-Mer, France, it changed parish priests in 1994. When he arrived, he found that the faithful were involved in parish activities, but most of the community was composed of seniors.
Desiring it to change, he took his parochial vicar and two groups of lay people visit a missionary parish in Italy. They also attended a seminar on small evangelizing groups. Upon their return, the team decided to put into practice what they had learned. In 1996, three evangelization groups were formed in the parish, each consisting of ten people. Through their evangelization efforts, these groups began to grow. When one group grew beyond 10 people it was split in two to multiply. In 2010, more than 100 parishioners met weekly in private homes.
These groups met once a week and their members proclaimed the Good News around them by word and service. They prayed for those they evangelized as well as for the group members so that they may be instilled by a missionary spirit.
Note that the emphasis was not only on small groups but also on community prayer. Among other things, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was established in a chapel of the city to support evangelization efforts. The parishioners ensured a permanent prayer 7 days a week, day and night.
The members of the small groups also get involved in some parish ministries: accompanying bereaved families, liturgy, catechetics, service to the poor, choir, marriage preparation, secretarial work, welcoming the faithful before Mass, etc.
For this church, which got its inspiration from the Sant’Eustorgio parish (see the July 21 diocesan bulletin: An example of Parish evangelization), small evangelizing groups and prayer have allowed it to be renewed from within. It also helped its members rediscover their missionary identity and be transformed through a more intimate relationship with Christ.
By Pierre-Alain Giffard, Director of Pastoral Work