Faith in Our Future Blog - February 2012
On Friday night (24 February), over 160 parishioners from St Bernadette’s Parish, Castle Hill, and St Madeleine’s Parish, Kenthurst, filled our third consultation session toward our Diocesan Pastoral Plan! It was another remarkable night. Thank you to the parish team at St Bernadette’s Parish for their hospitality and speedy organisation as tables quickly filled. Thank you also to the many parishioners of Kenthurst who shared their hopes and aspirations in planning for a future of faith.
It was an energetic and dynamic evening, with many concrete suggestions toward a more focused approach to mission in the coming years. Once again, youth was the most popular priority with family life the second most popular issue of the night.
The suggestions made were both practical and challenging. The need to make the most of school holiday times for evangelising and recreation with youth in the context of faith was raised, as well as the need for a greater exchange of wisdom and resources between parishes in this area. There was a call to better promote and articulate the benefits of Christian life and community to new generations and the particular influence of parents in the faith formation of the young was a strong point of consensus, one inviting a renewed pastoral response.
It was noticeable that the issue of responding to ethnic diversity within the Diocese was not chosen by many participants, despite the multicultural reality of the Diocese (at least a quarter of Parramatta Catholics were born overseas in a non-English speaking country). Nevertheless, the contributions in this area were important, including the need to welcome newcomers, especially refugees, to our Catholic communities and the need to encourage familiarity with the diverse expressions of Catholic faith as it is lived and celebrated by these communities.
Technology was raised as a key component of evangelisation in future years, and it was suggested that there be an accessible point of contact for enquirers about the Catholic faith and good support for those seeking to learn more.
As shared on the night, it is vitally important that these priorities of mission, our lived response to the Gospel, are our first consideration in planning for our future. In reviewing our present situation and then focusing on our priorities and goals, the appropriate resources and structures to support that mission will emerge in due course. As none of us experiences or sees all the Church in its variety and fullness, addressing the focal points of this mission together helps clarify how our ‘perennial program’ – to know, love and imitate Christ – can be best translated into pastoral initiatives for our time and place.
A parishioner from Kenthurst shared their encouragement following the evening, “This was a very good format for allowing parishioners to think through, share and discuss their views on the variety of issues facing the Diocese, as we look to the future and how we can manage the opportunities which will come our way. In just a couple of hours everyone there had the opportunity to speak and for their ideas to be recorded. With replication of these meetings around other parishes the result should prove to be a wealth of ideas for the pastoral planning committee to draw upon for the ultimate benefit of us and generations to come.”
Thank you for all those who contributed their ideas and viewpoints on Friday night to the development of our Diocesan Pastoral Plan. As our Church in Australia prepares to celebrate a ‘Year of Grace’ from this coming Pentecost, the God-given opportunities for our Diocese have indeed already begun to emerge through conversation, as gifts to be received by the way we live our Catholic faith in this new time.
Yours in Christ, Daniel
Photography by Alphonsus Fok & Grace Lu
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Last Friday night we were at St Michael’s Parish, Baulkham Hills, where an astonishing 115 people took part in the second of our parish consultation sessions! What a grace-filled experience! Extra tables were brought out as people continued to flow through the doors before our 7pm start.
Parish priest Fr Michael O’Callaghan led us in prayer before we launched into our overview of the present situation of our parishes, ministries and needs. Once again, initiatives directed toward youth and young adults drew the most enthusiastic response, while the areas of family life and lay and priestly vocations were also popular subjects of discussion.
The responses were diverse and marked by a strong commitment to share the best of our Catholic life with present and future generations. Creating more opportunities for families to interact and exchange faith and life in parishes was one suggestion; another being the offer of interactive commitments between youth groups and other organisations such as the St Vincent de Paul Society which has a significant presence in parishes and the Diocese. The potential to connect high school students with faith and enthusiasm with their primary school counterparts was raised as a potential aid to evangelisation, while it was suggested that a stepwise pathway for youth within the Church to develop leadership skills was also needed.
In the area of ethnic diversity, it was pointed out that in order to welcome newcomers to parish or community life, it was necessary to be able to first identify new arrivals in a more organised way. The question remained as to what parish or diocesan structures could support such an effort. There was a call for laity to bring their expertise and practical wisdom to decision-making and ministry more often, while the need to promote the permanent diaconate was also voiced. Positive media engagement was affirmed as a future area of improvement while formation for evangelisation was also noted in the conversation.
The readiness of those present at the consultation session to take up the challenge of outreach to others and best practice and collaboration in ministry was striking and an encouraging sign for our future renewal.
As I drove home, energised by the event and the number and quality of participants, what struck me most deeply was the willingness of our people to engage and bring forward anew the best of our tradition, commit ourselves to the mission of evangelisation in this time and place with creative fidelity. Friday night was a reminder that the Spirit continues to move through our Church as the bearer of possibility, revealing that the best of our life as a community of faith and witness to the Gospel is not behind us but rather yet to come.
Thanks goes to the parish team at St Michael’s for their successful promotion of the event and St Michael’s School for their practical support. We want to especially acknowledge parish priest Fr Michael and assistant priest Fr PJ; parish secretary Monica O’Callaghan, pastoral planning contact Paul Waite, school principal Dr Jennifer Fraser and our pastoral planning volunteer Monique O’Callaghan for making the evening possible! Of course, our final words of gratitude go to the many parishioners of St Michael’s Parish for being a part of this conversation, for voicing their concerns and sharing their ideas with us toward a vibrant future of faith.
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This past weekend (11-12th February) saw Bishop Anthony’s Pastoral Message, “Faith in Our Future” played in parishes across the Diocese, launching the consultation phase of our pastoral planning process. We hope you got to see it in your parish or school; if not, it also appears on the homepage of this website as well as on YouTube
In the week before, we were hard at work distributing the Bishop’s DVD message to our parishes and Catholic schools across the Diocese. As well, some 40,000 copies of the Catholic Outlook contained the Bishop’s Letter and Information Guide, and translations of these documents were also made available in Filipino, Maltese, Arabic, Vietnamese, Korean, and Chinese which are among our largest language groups. Sincere thanks to our dedicated translators and communications team for helping us in this important work! In addition, some 80,000 prayer cards were made available through parishes and schools to support our planning in faith. It expresses one of our earliest commitments, that our shared hope, dedication and enthusiasm for the pastoral planning process would be underpinned by prayer.
And then . . . last night marked the beginning of our parish consultations! We started close to home at St Anthony of Padua Catholic Parish, Toongabbie. The summer rain held off long enough to ensure a great gathering of some 60 people who shared their energy, enthusiasm and practical suggestions with us. The conversation gave witness to the ‘faith of the faithful’ as a source of the Church’s life and was a sign of hope for our future mission.
What did people say? The most striking trend marked out by those who participated was the fact that the total numbers for the sacraments of initiation did not increase in proportion with our Catholic population growth in the Diocese over the last decade. Also, the reality is that after baptism, a significant proportion of our people are not seen again, or only rarely.
It was suggested that parents ought to be encouraged whenever possible to remain connected with one another following the baptism of their children. But how to do this? Concrete initiatives were put forward, including creating opportunities for those parents of the newly baptised to gather together again, in the context of mutual support in faith and life. Formation in the sacramental life appears to be another key dimension in meeting this challenge. What are the other ways that we can invite people to remain connected and enter into the gift and challenge of the faith and community that we ourselves value?
Much more was shared and ideas were raised in the areas of youth engagement, clergy support, and ethnic diversity. You can read a summary of some of the other responses in the upcoming March edition of the Catholic Outlook!
In the meantime, we head to St Michael’s Parish in Baulkham Hills this Friday night and over to St Bernadette’s Parish, Castle Hill, the following week. We are close to confirming the last of the consultation dates across the Diocese so keep an eye on the Parish Consultation Dates
page on this website for more announcements!
Yours in Christ,
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|Recording of Bishop Anthony’s Pastoral Message.|
Welcome to the official “Faith in Our Future” blog! The past few months have been filled with behind-the-scenes preparations, including gathering information about our Diocese, the recording of Bishop’s Anthony’s “Faith in Our Future” Pastoral Message and preparations for our parish consultation events which start this month! “Pastoral planning” may not be the first thought that comes to mind when we think of the Church and our evangelising mission but it is, in fact, a vital part of responding to the Gospel in this time and place. Our planning together is an act of faith in our future as a Diocese and a profound expression of our trust and hope in each other and ultimately God who will guide us into future possibilities and those pastoral responses that are waiting to sprout. Our mission is to serve people better in faith and, as Bishop Anthony shared, to take the best view of things our Diocese needs your wise advice and vision. We know that there is a wealth of pastoral experience and life experience in our parishes, ecclesial movements as well as in our schools, that there are people with expertise and a deep sense of faith who have not yet been heard or whose contribution would further enrich our life as a Church if it were shared. We hope to hear a variety of views and experiences and also common ground. What is important is to get involved. Sometimes one voice can make all the difference.So as we journey through the year, keep us in prayer and pray for our Diocese as we begin the conversation and discernment about our future life and those initiatives that will strengthen our communities of faith in the years to come. Of course, we don’t start from naught; we are already ‘on the way’. So how can we build on the gifts that God has already given us and best serve God and our neighbour in Western Sydney today and tomorrow? Don’t forget that you can find out when and where a consultation session is taking place near you by clicking here. We would love to meet you in person and hear about your ideas and suggestions for our future as the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta.Yours in Christ, Daniel
We’ll be updating this blog regularly with news, photos, information and highlights from the parish consultation sessions taking place right across the Diocese, and you can email us back with your thoughts or even comment on our updates (please be kind!). We’ll always try and get back to you as soon as we can, when we’re not on the road and meeting you in person.
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