Faith in Our Future Blog - December 2012
As Christmas draws near, we would like to thank you for being a part of the journey towards our Diocesan Pastoral Plan. We go to the summer break with a deep sense of gratitude for the guidance of the Spirit throughout 2012 and all of you who have contributed your voice and given of your time to our future in faith.
From Blacktown to Blackheath, Granville to Kenthurst, Parramatta to Penrith we have made numerous new connections and sought to listen deeply to the realities of community life as well as the aspirations that our parishes and people hold for the years ahead. The deep impression left on us is the goodwill and intentional discipleship of those we have encountered. There is also an eagerness to share the best of our Catholic faith and tradition with others as a Church of evangelisation and renewal.
The consultations varied in size and composition though an average of seventy participants per event assured a variety of perspectives at each. Some 2,000 participants shared their views and you can still read summaries of each of the consultation events on this website. Many people have also taken the opportunity to write to us directly in their own time and we’ve sought to reply to submissions as promptly as possible (though there are more of you than us!). Please continue to send us your ideas into the New Year as we appreciate your advice and pastoral experience.
The past three months have seen the briefing of each of our twelve diocesan agencies on the major themes of concern shared at the consultations. Initial submissions have been received from each of these and an ongoing refinement process continues into 2013. As mentioned in our November update, some 200 possible actions have been surfaced though these remain in outline and much more work will need to take place to hone, appropriately resource and align these initial ideas and proposals with one another. Recommendations for parish life will also be one of our foci into the New Year and this will bring together the best ideas surfaced throughout the Diocese into one central resource.
As we anticipate the birth of Christ on the Feast of the Nativity, the arrival of this Holy Child who announces the sanctity of each person, we thank you and wish you a peaceful and blessed Christmas with family, friends and your communities of faith.
Our blogs and news service will take a break over January and return in February 2013 after a much welcomed break.
Thank you for your tremendous faith amidst the challenges and demands of the present moment. Your encouragement and passion for the life of the Church have given us hope in a bright future for the Diocese of Parramatta.
With every blessing,
Fr Paul Marshall and Daniel Ang
Pastoral Planning Team
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We have entered the season of Advent, a time of hope and expectation of the coming of Christ, our Shepherd and the Light of the World. Our Gospel for this new church year is the Gospel of Luke. Our readings, and the season as a whole, only fills us with a greater expectation of the ways in which Christ might be ‘born anew’ in our hearts in the coming years in our own Diocese of Parramatta.
In a sense the pastoral planning process we have embarked on together is a part of that wakefulness, a concrete expression of our need to be alert to our own identity in Christ, to the needs and desires of our many parish communities, to the needs of each other and those beyond the Church. As people of faith the invitation is to make ‘room in the inn’ for the unique reality of Jesus who tells us that God is where we are.
As Bishop Anthony shared in his recent pastoral message, many may well be feeling demoralised at this time. These are difficult times to say the least and our hearts go out to the victims of abuse, their families and to all our communities. The call to conversion this Advent rings more urgently than ever before.
Our hope as a Church may seem rather obscure at this time but our conversations with the many hundreds of parishioners and communities involved in this planning process has been a reminder to us of the goodwill and passion for the Gospel and the Church. There is a genuine desire to move together and to work together in response to the mission that Jesus has given us: to promote the Kingdom of God, the abundance of God’s life, in the everyday places of our lives. This combined witness, this communion in mission, has been a source of enduring hope for us in these difficult times.
In the remaining weeks of the year, we are gathering with the heads of our diocesan agencies to discuss new media possibilities and recommendations toward the pastoral plan. We will also consider propositions put forward by the recently concluded Synod on the New Evangelisation, discerning which of these might be germane for our Diocese.
Work on pastoral recommendations related to parish communities and their life will be developed in the New Year as we draw not only from your consultation feedback but also pastoral initiatives and best practice happening in other dioceses as well as abroad. This gives us the best possible options as a diocese experiencing rapid growth, cultural diversity and change.
The upcoming December issue of the Catholic Outlook contains our overview of the year though, as readers of our blog, you will be already well versed in the events and developments to date! You might note that Bishop Anthony has just opened a Twitter account so you can keep connected at www.twitter.com/AnthonyFisherOP in addition to our ‘Faith in Our Future’ planning website and media. Wishing you a blessed and peaceful Advent
Yours in Christ,
Fr Paul Marshall and Daniel Ang
Pastoral Planning Team
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