Faith in Our Future Blog - July 2012
On Tuesday night (31st July, 2012), parishioners from Our Lady Queen of Peace, Greystanes came together to share their ideas toward our Diocesan Pastoral Plan. Fr Bob Bossini along with Fr Zachariah Gayed welcomed everyone.
Lively discussion ensued around youth, clergy and laity and the mission of evangelisation. General suggestions included creating more volunteering opportunities for young people in parishes and schools, employing Family Educators to link parishes better with schools, the need to address sacramental follow-up of families from baptism through to the sacraments of initiation and on to post-marriage reflection opportunities, using a variety of ways to make the homily more engaging including the use of technology and dialogue to engage with the realities and experiences of participants.
In support of family life it was felt that we need to address pre-marriage and post-marriage formation with an emphasis on developing family groups, mothers’ groups and bereavement groups to connect life and faith thereafter. It was felt that one expectation or goal that could be raised with families was a family contribution of service to parish or school life amounting to twenty hours or so per year. The need to offer spiritual formation for parents at schools was once again reinforced as was the possibility of setting up visitation teams to follow up on RCIA, baptism families and newly married couples. There was the challenge to reach out to families not in our Catholic schools through Facebook and other forms of communication.
In terms of connecting with the young there was a desire to engage them through multimedia at significant faith moments including those within the Mass and on youth retreats. Could parishes set up a Twitter account and know how to use them appropriately? It was asked, what are the volunteering opportunities for young people in Church mission and ministry today? How are vocations promoted in our secondary schools?
Ethnic diversity is a significant feature of many parishes in our Diocese. This gathering suggested the need to be aware of the presence of new groups in our parishes in order to assess their needs. Can we invite spokespeople from various different ethnic backgrounds to speak at Masses about their Catholic faith tradition, as celebrated by them, so that the local community can understand their ‘take’ on faith? Can aspects of different cultures be meaningfully brought into our liturgy?
In regard to growing and supporting laity and clergy, the number of clergy within the Diocese was expressed as a concern and the need of ongoing formation and encouragement of clergy was raised. There was the need to ease the administrative burdens on clergy and the idea of shared parish managers was suggested as an opportunity to do so, as well as to encourage collaboration between parishes. The formation of seminarians in the midst of laity was also encouraged to provide them with the experience of ministry in real world scenarios. It was felt that the baptismal rights and gifts of the laity were not always fully recognised and encouraged as much as they might be. One more powerful suggestion was the proposal to engage more people in parish ministry linked to the life-stage development of members within families.
In discussing the mission of the new evangelisation, the question was asked, ‘What is the New Evangelisation?’ Some discussion ensued which affirmed earlier comments that we need to be a parish looking outwards to the community around us. There is a need to welcome the newcomer and it was proposed that welcome cards be given out to new people at parishes. It was asked if parishes could run non-religious activities to attract new people to the parish, including fairs and social gatherings? Alternatively, parishioners could personally invite a non-practicing Catholic to come to Mass and attend a BBQ afterwards. Is it possible for the Diocese to host an event annually in the Parramatta Business District and bring together various religious groups and lay groups to witness to the difference that faith makes?
There was a keen sense of the need to reach out to others and to understand the Catholic faith through the eyes of other cultures than our own, to open up wider volunteering opportunities at parish, deanery and/or diocesan level and to link parish ministries to the life stages of our family members. I was encouraged by the sense of ‘mission-beyond-the-parish’ that emerged from this consultation and thank all the people of Greystanes for their welcome and thoughtfulness.
Yours in Christ,
Fr Paul Marshall
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On Tuesday 24th July, 2012, we resumed our consultation process following the mid-year school holidays and joined the parish of St Andrew the Apostle at Marayong for our twentieth consultation of the year. Fr Ron McFarlane, parish priest of Marayong, led us in prayer with around 60 people in attendance.
Supporting family life and the new evangelisation were the most popular priorities of the evening, with the need for family prayer resources named as one initiative to help parents sustain faith in their families. The self-responsibility of parents to read Scripture and reflect on faith with their children was also acknowledged with the probing question raised in the written feedback, “Whose job is it?” It is hoped that one of the broader aims of the Diocesan Pastoral Plan will be to invite reflection on the meaning of discipleship as it is lived by all the people of the Diocese.
The opportunity to connect back with families after baptism was highlighted as a future priority while the need to better welcome new families into our communities was also identified. In the area of youth, the importance of spending quality time with youth in the context of faith and family was raised, while the need to listen to their desires as well as challenging them to participation in the mission of the Church were named as necessities. Deanery activities and resource sharing were also raised on the evening, while connecting with other parish youth groups and activities was seen as a strength of many parishes, including Marayong, which could be further built upon in the years to come.
The need to include the particular concerns of ethnic communities in our prayers of intercession was raised as an appropriate response to the diversity of our people while raising awareness of significant feast days was an added suggestion. In the area of laity and clergy, the need to expand vocations promotion was named as well as the need for focused, personal invitations to others to join ministries and so share in service.
Talk of the new evangelisation focused on the need for formation for such a task, with the need for parish teams dedicated to this task raised as a possibility. Our own flexibility and willingness to go beyond our comfort zones was seen as critical to this mission as well as to make the most of significant events in the life of the parish and that of families, including sacramental celebrations and liturgies.
Thank you to all who participated in this latest consultation event. The community spirit and commitment of those we met at Marayong gives us much hope for the future. Look out for our update in the September issue of the Catholic Outlook which will provide a summary of the key findings to date. With only eight or so consultations left, don’t forget to take note of our remaining consultation dates and invite your family or friends to participate in the shaping of our Diocesan Pastoral Plan.
|A summary of feedback from 34 parishes to date|
While taking a break from parish consultations, we have been busy meeting with individual diocesan agencies and sharing your feedback with them, updating the clergy of the Diocese on your views and suggestions, and have commenced initial research into pastoral initiatives that will strength our mission into the future.
Yours in Christ,
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