Today I went to a meeting of a diocesan committee that I am part of. As part of our prayer to open the meeting we read and reflected on today's Gospel from Luke (17:7-10). After the reading, one of the committee members sighed, stating that the last sentence seemed to speak her ministry. "We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do." We all agreed.
I know sometimes in my own ministry I feel like an unprofitable servant. It is not that I look for recognition (an occasional "thank you" is sufficient), but lately it seems that some of us in parish ministry are looked at as nothing more than someone who is only there to meet the particular needs of parishioners, at their time, and the way they want it. This is especially true when it comes to sacraments and sacramental preparation. It seems the consumer mentality has taken over and what we can offer parishioners is just one of many services that are on their list of needs and wants, but only when it is convenient or not too demanding. When we try to do what we are trained and required to do, people sometimes get hostile with us for "denying them" or making things difficult. When we try to speak the truth at meetings or in courses and workshops, we are met with arguments that the Church is out of touch or that the teachings are singling out people who do not live according to our moral laws.
We keep plugging along, doing what we are obliged to do because we truly believe we are doing God's work, doing God's will. But it does get frustrating. I don't think anyone in ministry is immune from this frustration. I know the answer lies with prayer, and lots of it. It also helps to know that even on those days when it seems our efforts are for naught we don't really know if what we say or do will at some point make a difference in someone's relationship with God. It is still difficult, still frustrating. Sometimes I think it might be a call from the Lord to take a good look at what I am doing in my ministry and to adjust or make changes.
We are hearing a lot about New Evangelization. I just see being presented with new programs that will only add to the frustration when the only people who show up are the same faith-filled people who probably have a better relationship with Christ than I do. However I do believe in having Hope. So I will embrace the new programs, and work tirelessly to reach out to those Catholics whose faith has grown cool or those who faith really hasn't developed, those who haven't come to a relationship with Christ. And through it all, I'll remember that I have done what I am obliged to do as a disciple of Christ the Lord.