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PEP: Part 3 – The parish

Chaplains are to pursue conversion ("kerygmatic heralding") in universities, the army and hospitals. (3.2.1.D) Faith-based (but state-funded) social services ("the deaconry") are to target both old and new forms of "poverty" (vulnerability?) such as "despair, desolation in old age and in illness, and dependency in people who are materially well-to-do." (3.5.1.C)



 Pastorisation and Evangelisation Plan
 of the Catholic Church in Slovakia,

Pastoračný a evanjelizačný plán Katolíckej cirkvi na Slovensku (2001-2006)

By the Slovak Bishops Conference, 10 May 2001.
Translation and notes by Prof. em. Alexander Rehák 

Part three
3. The parish


3.1. Pastorisation and evangelisation of the parish community

3.1.1. The situation

A)  As the pastorisation symposia have shown (1998 in Svit, 1999 and 2000 in Košice) the overall situation in our parishes is good and there are some excellent pastorisation initiatives. Especially in the towns quite a few laymen co-operate effectively with the priests in the areas of catechesis, charity, work with children, youth and evangelisation, (the course Filip (and) Campaign for Jesus). One has to underline the dedicated work of the Church movements.

B)  Contemporary life has brought about an enormous growth in new tasks that the parishes and the clergy were not prepared for. The entertainment industry and business have occupied the leisure time of people and focussed their attention on material values. Sects and cults offer tempting substitutions for the true values.

C)  The priests in the majority of the parishes are overburdened. Most of them received their formation in the totalitarian period, which is why they were only partially able to assimilate the spirit of the [Second Vatican] Council. In practice the pastorisation is restricted only to the church and the parsonage. There are only a few educational and formative actions, centred on pastorisation. Diocesan Pastorisation Centres, which could be of help, are missing. Co-operation with the laity is often unsatisfactory, despite some progress – for definite reasons (lack of sufficient openness and mutual trust. etc.) on both sides.

D)  Contemporary pastorisation is centred almost exclusively on the regular church-goers (approximately 10 %); this means that the majority of the population (not practicing believers and unbelievers, etc) are outside the range of activity.

E)  It follows from the above information, that the Church in Slovakia is confronted by tasks that can be fulfilled only with the help of active parish communities under the guidance of the clergy and with large-scale participation of the laity. This need is evident, in view of the tasks enumerated elsewhere in this plan.

F)  The importance of building up the parish community has been stressed also in the Church document Communio a missio: :  “Communion [community] and mission are profoundly connected with each other… It is always the one and the same Spirit who calls together and unifies the Church and sends her to preach the Gospel ‘to the ends of the earth’ " (ChL 32) [Chapter 3, § 32 of Christifideles Laici, 1988].  

3.1.2. The aims

To improve the current parish pastorisation within the framework of Holy Mass, during the administration of the Sacraments, at the catechesis in the spirit of the Church Magisterium;
To proceed from the traditional pastorisation (providing spiritual services to people who already believe) to a missionary pastorisation;
To co-operate with the laity and their communities so that the parish becomes “a community of communities” which is being evangelised and evanglises the others. To lead the practicing believers to a spiritual maturity, to participating in the public life and in the tasks of the Church;
To lead half-hearted Christians to a personal belief, to search for ways of approaching non-practicing believers and those with a very different viewpoint.


 3.1.3 Recommendations

a)  To support and bring about activities aimed at a new evangelisation, especially courses of formation for the helpers in the parish (the basic condition of attendance is their personal belief and their activities in catechesising adults);

b)  To arrange for programmes for a systematic renewal of the parish, aimed at mapping the situation, formation of the parish helping team, creating associations and evangelisation of the other parishioners;

c)  To support spreading of well-tested pastorisation initiatives, aids and manuals;

d)  To create a centre for the whole republic and diocesan centres for pastorisation and for the new evangelisation;

e)  To be respectful of forms of piety exercised by believers and to give them a deeper meaning;

f)  To take into account personal problems prevailing in towns (drugs, sects). To keep a directory of specialists to call upon;

g)  A good opportunity for evangelisation is the still persisting interest of a wide group of the population in the sacraments. Aside from instruction, part of the preparation should consist of also involving them in the Christian practices and integrating them into the parishioner’s community. From this viewpoint the policy has proven useful of including them in a group of those catechumens (confirmees), who are practicing believers. In co-operation with the priest they [the confirmees] can answer questions, guide them through their personal example and establish personal contact, etc.;

h)  Not to reduce the exacting requirements for preparation to receive the sacraments;

i)  To involve the laity in the tasks of the parish. The laymen, their communities and movements should be responsive to the needs of the parish: it is recommended that the priests co-operate with them;

j)  To widen the permanent deaconate of married men. If necessary to employ full-time those laymen who have proven to be good voluntary helpers.


3.2. The service of heralding the good news

3.2.1 The situation

A)  The service of heralding in the Universal Church consists of four provinces a) missionary heralding – kerysma, b) catechetic, c) liturgics – homilies, d) theological research (cf. Všeobecné katechetické direktórium, [Universal Catechetic Directorium] 1971, art. 17; VDK 52).

B)  Some forms of heralding were tightly restricted In Slovakia during the totalitarian period. The missionary - kerygma was possible only on an individual basis. The catechetic was restricted to a minimum (many people can remember, that they had undergone only a single year of catechetic preparation, before they were allowed to receive Holy Communion, be confirmed). The theological scientific research was totally suppressed, because even at the then single Theological Faculty in Bratislava PhD studies were possible only with state permission. The only form of heralding permitted by the State was the homily – a sermon delivered at church services – but its content was not allowed to relate to any political or social theme. Loudspeakers were permitted only within the premises of the church, so that outside the church the sermon could not be heard.

C)  From 1960 to 1990 Jozef Vrábel, professor of homiletics and pastoral activities, accepted this as “a sign of the times” and at the Theological Faculty of the University of Bratislava his lectures and seminars educated many hundreds of priests, who understood the importance and the uniqueness of the homiletic thinking. Their pastorisation zeal and activities upheld the faith of the ecclesiastic communities in Slovakia. Despite the lack of religious literature, or films and newspapers [1], exhortations to the believers were present in the form of homilies and sermons in churches. Therefore the Vrábel’s school deserves great credit for the survival of believers during the era of the lack of freedom

D)  Since 1990 the situation has changed considerably. The kerygmatic heralding takes place in pastorisation centres among the university students, and in the pastoral services in the army and hospitals. Public and private heralding of kerygma were revived at lay missions in the parishes in the villages and in big cities. The activities of the Papal Missionary Work were renewed, as well.

E)  New dimensions and forms based on specialised institutions have been secured for catechetic heralding. There is now legal provision for the teaching of religion in the educational process. Studying theology has enabled many laymen to become qualified catechists. At the catechetic centres at particular bishop’s offices the organisation of the parish and school catechesis is being gradually stabilised.

F)  Theological research in the service of heralding and evangelising is being undertaken at three theological faculties and four other institutions. Many priests and laymen take their PhD studies at home and abroad, helping thus to develop theological research; apart from it, about 500 diploma dissertations are being written. So far there have been few proceedings to receive the title of associate professors and inauguration [nomination] proceedings. It is fairly difficult to run the libraries necessary for the normal development of theology;

G)  Homilies are being delivered in Slovakia in compliance with Canon Law, especially on Sundays and on recognised holy days. On working days they may be held in parishes that have zealous priests. During their theological studies, which include rhetoric and homiletics, priests have become familiar with this form of heralding. There are many aids for preparing sermons, such as varied exegetic commentaries, ready-made homilies or collections of exemplary speeches. Any dissatisfaction of the believers with an incompetent preacher should be dealt with individually.


3.2.2. The aims

The aims of all four forms of heralding are described in the documents of the Church Magisterium. While the aim of the kerygma is conversion, catechesis fosters maturation of the conversion and the formation of a Christ-like mentality. The aim of homilies is not the conversion or education of the believers, but thanks-giving celebration of the Word of God and exhortation to a life in accordance with the Gospel. The theological research follows the aim of deepening the human knowledge about the Word of God.


3.2.3. Recommendations

a)  Making the service of heralding effective requires inserting the God’s word into daily life.

b)  All forms of heralding should be performed “with the power of experience”. One should bear in mind that this should be based on personal witnessing since, in the words of Paul VI, “the human being of today prefers to listen to witnesses rather than to teachers. And he listens to the latter only if they were witnesses themselves” (EN, 41).

c)  In theology studies it is necessary to synchronise theory with practical training, so that graduates are prepared for homiletic, catechetic and missionary heralding.

d)  It is necessary to involve in the heralding service all forms of mass media, such as the internet, television, radio or the press. Therefore we value highly Radio Lumen and all the publishing companies for the spiritual literature and periodicals.

e)  The service of heralding will be effective when the laymen and the new ecclesiastic movements are invited to wider co-operation with the clerics, respecting at the same time the offices and functions outlined in the Canon Law (the homily is reserved for priests and deacons – cf. CIC 1083, kán 767 §1 and CCEO, kán 614 §4).


3.3. Catechesis

3.3.1. The situation

A)  Since 1991 the catechetic activities have been primarily focussed on the schools, for which timetables were worked out and gradually textbooks and teaching aids were prepared covering religious subject matter for all primary-school classes and two secondary-schools classes. Until 1995 several types of textbooks were used (from Spiš, from Košice and, to a lesser extent, other available textbooks). The classes in religious education are attended by about 450,000 pupils at primary and secondary schools (approximately 50 %). The parish catechesis is just occasional and it is centred above all on preparing for the sacraments. The Commission for Catechisation at the Bishops Conference published Short Compass for the Faith (by M. Kašparů) and Short Catechism: I Believe (Kirche in Not), primarily for the needs of parish catechisation. The Commission is drawing up catechetic manuals for preparing for the sacraments of communion and confirmation.

B)  Since 1992 Diocesan Catechetic Centres (DCC) have come into operation. Aside from securing catechetic aids, they focus on the formation and education of the catechists in co-operation with the Theological Faculties and selected Pedagogic Faculties. In an effort to create a catechetic programme, in 1998 at a seminar in Košice the first phase of analysing the status of catechisation in all the dioceses was undertaken. This seminar analysed fourteen spheres of catechisation namely at schools, at the parishes (preparing for sacraments, catechisation of families), at the special schools (Catholic schools, special and nursery schools, education to love and purity) and non- school catechesis (movements, small communities, catechesis of the family) A seminar was held in Sielnica in 2000 on the initial catechisation of young people.


3.3.2. The aims

To improve the analysis of the state of catechesis, to get acquainted with the real situation and the mentality of the target population (children, youth, adults);

To create a national catechetic directorate and, after that, catechetic programmes in the particular dioceses;

To implement it in the Christian mode of life and education for life based on the faith in the community;

In the methodical procedures to develop Christian knowledge evenly, to remember the important formulas of the faith (memorising), experience and world view;

To be able to talk about one’s own faith and to produce arguments for it;

To bring about an enculturation of the faith;

Besides teaching religion at schools, to develop catechisation in the parishes and catechisation in families, co-ordinating them, so that they reinforce each other;

To form the catechists for religion in schools, as well as in the parishes;

To improve the organisation, administrative, financial and legal status of teachers of religion at schools.


3.3.3. Recommendations

a)  To create a National Catechetic Centre, which will co-operate in future with the diocesan Catechetic Centres to be finalised;

b)  To resolve the financial situation of the Catechetic Centres in the framework of funding the Church Centres and Centres of the religious societies;

c)  To expand the catechetical and pedagogic (practical) training of the future priests and catechists in co-operation with the Theological and Pedagogic Faculties [of the Universities of] Trnava, Nitra, Ružomberok);

d)  To ensure a permanent didactic, methodical and spiritual formation of the catechists and priests, and the professional education of the methodical staff, visiting persons, staff in the Catechetic Centres keeping in mind the differences between the parish and school catechesis.

The school catechesis

a)  To formulate the educational aims and the basic scope of knowledge according to age in the classroom, based on available textbooks;

b)  To gradually draw up new timetables for the state and ecclesiastic schools of all grades, including the SOU (secondary vocational schools – for trades) and to ensure the creation of textbooks, and methodical aids;

c)  To develop the methodical skills and activities for inspectors in the subject matter of religious education at schools;

d)  To solve problems related to the subject matter of religious education with the Education Ministry, to arrange for visiting of staff from Catechetic Centres in the schools for inspection and advisory activities;

e)  To secure legally a co-operation in the field of religious education at schools in the form of agreements concluded between Catechetic Centres and Methodical Centres (of the Education Ministry).

The non-school catechesis

a)  To link and co-ordinate the catechesis in the parishes with the curriculum for religious education in the schools;

b)  To create conditions for varied forms of parish catechesis, in accordance with the demands of the Universal Directorium for Catechisation (VDK 67-68, 71);

c)  To gradually implement the catechesis of adults in the parishes and provide for the necessary aids and manuals;

d)  To co-operate with the Liturgical Commission, especially in the preparation of aids and manuals (preparing for sacraments, prayer books and similar);

e)  To co-operate with families, with movements, with monastic orders, educators, artists, sportsmen, and others.


3.4. The holy liturgy

3.4.1 The situation

A)  In Slovakia the Second Vatican Council has brought about above all a liturgical reform in the churches; the language of the people has been introduced at the Holy Mass and the premises have been modified (the altar now facing the people). These days a systematic concern with the liturgy persists, with the help of positive teachers [“sic” in the original]: such as
– The Liturgical Committee of the Bishops Conference and the diocesan committees and sections
– Chairs of liturgy at the Theological Faculties
– Specialised periodical such as Liturgia and Adoramus te
– The Liturgical Institute (LI) in Košice with its three sections: general, sacred music, and eastern liturgy
– The monastic orders, which put emphasis on the liturgy (Dominicans)
– Yearly symposia with international participation since 1998 and with contributions from movements at the Theological Institute in co-operation with the Commission for the Laity at the Bishops Conference.

B)  The main points of possible untapped resources and shortcomings:
– Liturgical topics are rare in priestly recollections [for discussion of selected religious topics: rekolekcia]. The priests give priority to homilies; the liturgical catechesis has been lost, as well as the possibilities of making use of many opportunities offered in liturgical books. Any authentic liturgical creativity is lacking, it is sometime replaced by arbitrariness;
– On the level of the parish pastorisation often a qualified church organ player is lacking, as well as cantors and choirs of singers. On the diocesan and deanship levels there is no system of regular care (schooling and forming) of liturgical helpers – the acolyte boys and organ players;
– The activities of the section for interior arrangement and decoration are usually insufficient or completely lacking in our dioceses. The layout of a church, especially the design of the presbytery (sanctuary) (the, altar, places for those presiding and listening etc) is often inconvenient. There is no periodical in Slovakia dealing with this topic.


3.4.2 The aims

To effect a fully developed liturgical pastorisation, the aim of which is a full, conscious and active participation of the believers in the liturgy. To regulate the people’s piety, which has its traditions and importance and to help to achieve the particular goals.


3.4.3 Recommendations

The domain of liturgy in general

a)  To improve the co-ordination of particular institutions and of the publication activity;

b)  To work out themes for the priestly recollections [for discussion of selected religious topics: rekolekcia] about the liturgical pastorisation;

c)  To help in gaining financial resources for professional translations of liturgical books and the related costs;

d)  To modify the current monopoly of the SSV (Society of Saint Adalbert); and publishing, including preparatory jobs, to be changed so that the powers and responsibilities are on the same side;

e)  To reconsider the possibility of giving the Holy Communion into the hands of those receiving it; [instead of directly into their mouths];

The most important tasks for the Liturgical Commission at the Bishops Conference

f)  To prepare prayer books for believers (that are) suitable for today;

g)  To improve activities of the diocesan liturgical committees and sections. Nominating members in those bodies should be done in a responsible fashion and after consultation;

The most important tasks of the Liturgical Institute

h)  To school liturgical performers – lectors, organists, psalm-singers and acolytes;

The most important tasks of chairs of liturgy (at the theological faculty)

i)  To take care to provide more professionals of high qualification at the theological faculties and its institutes;

j)  To publish more liturgical books (and) articles in the Catholic News for deepening knowledge about liturgy;

k)  In the seminaries for priests to foster liturgy in the standard form serving as an example for the future activities of the priesthood candidates, as well as to try out variations of ceremonies and songs (in the national and Latin language);

The most important tasks of parishes

m)  To renew the liturgical catechesis, to improve the links of liturgy and pastorisation for life;

n)  To support creativity in the liturgy within the limits of the liturgical documents;

The domain of the sacred songs

o)  To continue working on the project of preparing a liturgical book of songs as approved;

p)  To secure qualified organ players at the national level;

q)  To develop the schooling of organ players and psalm-singers within the framework of the diocesan liturgical commissions in co-operation with the Liturgical Institute;

r)  To support the existing periodical dealing with sacred songs, Adoramus te as a forum for preparing a Liturgical Book of Songs, for liturgical singing and for the continuous growth of organ players.

Interior arrangement and decoration

s)  Planning of new churches, renovation and the resolution of specific problems with church interiors should be approved by the Bishop after reviewing the knowledgeable opinions of this section. A planned or already existing arrangement cannot be arbitrarily altered (not even after the change of the church administrator of the priest). This would be problematic and an appropriate preparation of the project can be looked after only by the diocesan bishop with the help of the interior arrangement and decoration committee;

t)  In consequence of the change of administrators – the priests, an important problem can arise: to keep up the liturgical solution as it had been approved by the committee. At the inauguration ceremony and during visits, the Bishop should ascertain that the state of affairs is in accordance with the opinion of the committee, which is the only way to prevent unauthorised changes. Adhering to this rule also means enabling official access to monuments and listening to the voice of the believers. A part of the Bishop’s visit should also be devoted to verifying and implementing the liturgical reforms in this sphere.


3.5 Deaconry

3.5.1 The situation

A)  The deaconry as an expression of a new commandment (Jn 13: 34) takes a special place among the tasks of the Church and parishes. It is a witness also for those who are biased against the Church (1 Pt 3:1) In Slovakia the Slovak Catholic Charity pursues services for the ailing, the poor and those dependent on help, as well as the Catholic Unity of Slovakia, the Family of the Immaculate, Saint Vincent’s Societies and parish communities (in the form of parish charities). The Catholic Charity has about 1500 employees and great numbers of volunteers who perform an extensive range of activities, for example:
– Management and running charity homes for the priests and members of religious orders;
– Regular care and nursing services for the elderly and ailing (at 50 locations);
– Charity social centres taking care of dependent families and individuals;
– Hospices for the mentally and physically handicapped, elderly , ailing, children from afflicted families, lonely mothers with children and pregnant women;
– Charity services in families;
– Psychological, social and medico-sexual advisory activities;
– Dormitories;
– Care of immigrants and migrants.

B)  Obstacles to further development of charitable activities are ever more restricted subsidies, as well as the absence of charities in a large portion of the parishes.

C)  It is evident that active affection for all the people, especially those who depend on help becomes one of the pastorisation priorities of the future epoch. New forms of poverty emerge, namely despair, desolation in old age and in illness, and dependency on people who are materially well-to-do. Christian communities cannot be expected to become social agencies (NMI 52).


3.5.2 The aims

Despite the deteriorating economic conditions to attempt to maintain charitable activities at the current level. To extend the current charitable activities by founding new parish charities and by recruiting more volunteers. Using courses to promote a better preparedness of the team members.


3.5.3 Recommendations

a)  To create teams of volunteers in hospitals who are ready to co-operate with the local priest and to take care about their appropriate formation. Their duties will also include, among others, talking with the patients and mediating contact with the priest, especially for the administration of sacraments.

b)  For big hospitals – if conditions allow – to assign a hospital chaplain, who will devote his time to pastorisation of the ill, their visitors, as well as of the health service staff.

c)  In larger hospitals to establish a chapel with a [religious] counselling room and library.

d)  To support hospice movement.

e)  In co-operation with the Subcommittee of the Bishops Conference for Medical Ethics and Bioethics to support the establishment of at least one gynaecological-obstetrical department in a teaching hospital or a department with a Catholic orientation. [2]

f)  In each parish to establish a parish charity with a group of volunteers, who will make a list of ailing and depending on help and socially dependent children and families and to react to their needs. To ensure proper spiritual and professional preparedness of these volunteers.

g)  To support and expand services for socially dependent families and children.

h)  To invite specific groups of laymen to take educational courses with lectures about the social teaching of the Church, adjusted in their content to the trends and needs of these groups.


3.6. Popular and global missions, public evangelisation

3.6.1. The situation

A)  From the aspect of the internal missions
– The popular missions as a spiritual exercise for the whole parish mobilise the forces of the parish – the groups, the movements – and through their ardour the doubting non-believers are attracted. Therefore it is said in CIC kán 770 that, in accordance with the instructions of the diocesan bishop, the priests in the parishes must at certain times organise extraordinary heralding actions, such as recollections [rekolekcia: for priests to discuss selected topics] and popular missions adapted to the needs of the time.
– In Slovakia many people accept the missionary programme. Perhaps because the popular missions were absent for fifty years and they bring something new to the lives of non-believers. Many people lost their faith and they need a “jog” to come around. Through the missions they solve problems hidden deep in their hearts. These prevent them living throughout their lives fully in relation to God.

B)  From the aspect of global missions
– Engagement for the global missions, which during the totalitarian regime stagnated, is developing only gradually. Apart from the Papal Missionary Works and the Institutions of the Sacred Life some lay movements promote the global missions, for instance the Missionary Association of the Holy Ghost and the Slovak Missionary Movement. Despite some exemplary initiatives, such as The Good News of the Movement of the Christian Communities of Children, it is necessary to exert every effort, so that the global missions become an issue for all the parishes, communities and believers. This attitude to missions must be further developed, because each Christian becomes responsible by baptism for spreading the Kingdom of God on this earth.


3.6.2. The aims

To fulfil the directive of Jesus, “Go and teach all nations” so that the Church of Slovakia becomes more missionary;

To strengthen the faith of the believers and to awaken in them responsibility for the lost and the non-believers “Faith is confirmed by spreading it” (cf. RMS 2).


 3.6.3. Recommendations

From the aspect of the internal missions

a)  To awaken missionary ardour in the parishes;

b)  To organise in the parishes popular missions;

c)  In large cities to continue organising citywide missions by several missionary groups;

d)  To ensure that the missions become effective. “The time of the spirit” in which we live directs our acclivities towards varied expressions and to richness of methods and modes;

e)  To engage in the missionary activities, ever more laymen who have learned evangelisation programmes in the schools, in garrisons, colleges, on the streets and in sports stadiums. These days the missions cannot remain confined to the churches.

f)  To support evangelisation and missionary schools (monasteries in Podolinec and Kostolná) in preparing laymen, who should be active in parishes (formative, prayer and missionary groups). Through ardent laymen to awake the missionary zeal;

g)  To establish missions (evangelisation) only with the agreement of the local priest and in co-operation with him;

From the aspect of the global missions

h)  In the formation of priests and the laymen to bear in mind educating (them) for the apostolate, for acquiring the missionary spirit;

i)  To develop the missionary dimension of the pastorisation on every level of the Church life (parish, communities, movements);

j)  To create in each dioceses a Missionary Centre;

k)  To nominate in each diocese a full-time director of the Papal Missionary Work;

l)  To send for studies of missiology / to get at least license/ from each dioceses one priest. These are the preconditions for creating a system of missionary ardour at all levels of the Church life.


Notes for Part 3

By the translator, Dr. Alexander Rehák

[1] During the Communist era religious institutions published both newspapers and magazines (altogether ten periodicals). The print run was about 120,000 copies.
J. Čelko, “Religion and Secular Humanism in the Slovak Republic”, Free Inquiry, Vol. 15, No 1, 1994/95, pp. 44-45.

[2] Teaching hospital departments are part of the Medical Faculty of a university. Would this set a precedent for allowing Catholic departments in other university faculties?

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