Being where the Church is not: the church job of all the baptised

By Zara Tai OCV, 2 February 2021
Participants at the inaugural Diocese of Parramatta Forum. Image: Diocese of Parramatta.


One of the questions I get asked as a consecrated virgin is “so what work do you do for the Church?” I reply, “being where the Church is not, in my ordinary job as a town planner.” People are quite surprised. Some may even dismiss it as if this was not of any value. The surprise is a hangover from when consecrated people used to do the bulk of the full-time church jobs which are not sacramental – jobs like teaching and nursing. These days most of these jobs are done by the laity.

The Decree on the Missionary Activity of the Church speaks about going to the whole world to preach the Gospel, to expand the Body of Christ.[1] These days that world is the secular world.

The secular work environment provides a safe space for people to be Church. Human resource policy generally ensures respectful behaviour in the workplace. Discussions on religious matters, in a social context, can occur in a protected way.

Given this environment, when people find out I am consecrated, they feel they can discuss religious matters with me without judgement. Discussions can be on just about anything, not just Catholicism. This could be sharing insights into different religious beliefs – Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism or other Christian traditions. Sometimes it is about matters of philosophy – the meaning of life type of questions. Closer to home, it may be to provide support, to help people practice their faith during the pandemic.

This work, being where the Church is not; is extended to just about every aspect of my life. I have had discussions in the public pool, the beach and even on dive boats.

However, this “work” is not just the work of consecrated virgins. The Dogmatic Constitution of the Church speaks about the one priesthood of Christ as we are all one Body of Christ.[2] All the baptised can and are called to be Church, and evangelise in every part of society, outside more recognisable Church environments.[3] There are only a few, the ordained, which are required to do certain “jobs” which are mainly sacramental. However, all work of the Church, no matter whether it is sacramental or not, is of equal importance and is part of the one priesthood of Christ.[4]

So, what are my suggestions on how to be Church where the Church is not?

I would ask your parish priest or deacon for tips. From my experience, discussions on faith can occur anywhere so long as they are initiated by the person who you are talking to and not by you. This is important. The last thing you want to do is to “Bible bash” anyone. Let the Holy Spirit work through them and through you. Let them ask the questions and you respond. All you need to do is to be there – where the institutional Church is not, wherever that may be and respond as Christ would respond.

The Church needs you. The priesthood of Christ needs everyone, not just the ordained. The priesthood of Christ needs the baptised to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 29:19). The Church needs people to do the Church’s job – to be where the Church is not and to expand the Body of Christ.


Zara Tai is a consecrated virgin in the Diocese of Parramatta.


[1] The Decree on the Missionary Activity of the Church, 6.

[2] The Dogmatic Constitution of the Church, 10.

[3] The Dogmatic Constitution of the Church, 10.

[4] The Dogmatic Constitution of the Church, 10


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