Fostering the diversity of ministry

22/05/2015

Catholic Outlook May 2015: Fr Peter Confeggi
Fr Peter Confeggi is naturally drawn to the world of art. Photos: Virginia Knight.

From Catholic Outlook May 2015

By Virginia Knight

Bringing two communities together to worship and work as one in the fast-growing suburb of Blacktown should be challenge enough for one life’s work.

However, for Fr Peter Confeggi, Administrator of the newly established Mary, Queen of the Family Parish, it is, to date, the culmination of his life experiences and where he believes God has been preparing him for service.

Fr Peter believes priesthood brings a great gift for being with people in their transition moments of life. With the recent amalgamation of the parishes of St Patrick’s Blacktown and St Michael’s Blacktown South, he is leading a dedicated team to forge a new community.

“The transition could not have been achieved so cohesively and successfully without the great team commitment we have here in Blacktown,” Fr Peter said.

The team has been planning week by week how best to achieve each milestone in the changeover and has worked with both communities to rebuild parish life as the changes took effect.

“It is a tribute to the great team,” Fr Peter said. “If I will have done anything in my years in Blacktown it will have been to create a leadership team of ministry.”

Fr Peter said the amalgamation was a microcosm of the present Church. “The amalgamation of parishes is beginning not just in the Diocese of Parramatta, but across the Sydney basin, all around Australia and the entire Western world,” he said.

“We cannot go on having everything priest-dependent as it has been in the past. We need to continue the cultural shift, fostering the diversity of ministry, building teams of ministry, for the life and mission of the Church.  Such teams of ministry can mirror the ‘communio’ of the Church.”

Catholic Outlook May 2015: Fr Peter Confeggi
In the parish team at Blacktown are (from left): Pastoral Associate Sr Judith Lythall SM, Fr Peter Confeggi, Pastoral Associate Sr Grace Roclawska CSFN, Parish Secretary Claudette Cheetham and Finance Officer Jacqueline Anchique.

Fr Peter grew up in Campbelltown, grounded and supported by a close-knit loving family. Following a vocation was a natural thing. The Franciscan Order based nearby had always impressed him with its prayerful simple living.

After his ordination he worked in a number of Sydney parishes as assistant priest before studying for three years in France to complete his Masters in Theology. To begin he spent three months in a community on the Swiss border where only French was spoken, immersing himself in the language.

Then came a life-altering appointment when the Franciscan order was looking to place people in Uganda. With his skills in English and French, he accepted a post to teach at the seminary in Mbarara. He was one of those on the ground in 1994 at the time of the Rwandan genocide.

“The massacre was horrific; we were on the edge of it. There were lots of refugees and the stories were horrendous,” he recalled. “My Dad always used to say, ‘You’ve got to keep going.’ I used his wisdom to get through it.”

Fr Peter’s experiences in Uganda forced him to examine his own calling. “I have always felt called to places of need but I always knew I was not called to be a lifetime missionary as it is a very special calling,” he said.

“That was reinforced through observing missionaries during this time of trauma. Many were devastated seeing a life’s work destroyed but were also reluctant to return to their culture of origin. I realised more deeply the need for a place where we belong and for stability of place.

“Returning from Africa I needed to put down roots. And this was the place I knew best, on the edge of Sydney. I really believe God gives us one experience in life to prepare us for another.”

Weaving together the threads of his life experiences, God had equipped Fr Peter with the skills to take him into the next phase of his priestly ministry.

He left the Franciscan Order to work with the parishes of St Marys and then Greystanes, listening and helping to heal the parish community.

“We must continue to address the issue of those who have been hurt or abused by the institutional Church, continue the healing and connect with those affected,” he said of the future of the Church.

At present, Fr Peter’s future is looking very busy. Time to relax is at a premium, but he has always had a way of escaping the pressure; a past-time where he feels just an hour spent can be the recharge equivalent of a day.

Catholic Outlook May 2015: Fr Peter Confeggi
Fr Peter Confeggi: “All my life I have drawn or painted.”

From an early age, Fr Peter had a vivid awareness of the world around him, not only the people, but the beauty of nature. He was naturally drawn to the world of art.

In recent years he has taken time for summer schools at the National Art School at Darlinghurst in life drawing and tonal painting. In retirement he plans to pursue his interest in Fine Art.

“All my life I have drawn or painted. I love to paint in oils, largely because of its manoeuvrability.” He has also dabbled in watercolour. Sketchbooks full of pencil drawings for past and future creative endeavours are stacked on side tables and spilling out of bookshelves

“There is always something on the easel in my room,” he reflects on his studio looking out on a courtyard in the presbytery. It is his sanctuary and indulgence that he seeks in his precious moments of peace.


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