Faith in Our Future Blog - June 2012
On Tuesday 26th June, 2012, the parishes of Quakers Hill-Schofields and Riverstone came together in the Multipurpose Area of Mary Immaculate Primary School to share their ideas toward the Diocesan Pastoral Plan. Fr Ian McGinnity, parish priest of Mary Immaculate Parish, led us in prayer before we launched into conversation about future possibilities.
One of the affirmations of the evening was the pastoral care and support already provided in our many parish and school communities, which represent a gift that the Pastoral Plan hopes to extend and strengthen in the years to come. A challenge identified in the area of supporting family life was the need to better identify new parishioners and sustaining connections with our people between baptism and first communion. A strong idea to encourage exchange between parishes and schools was the need for parishes to be represented at school orientation days, whether by clergy and/or laity, witnessing to the integral faith dimension of our Catholic schools.
In the area of youth, the issue of succession in leadership was raised as essential in building sustainable ministry. Indeed, this seems to apply to many other areas of parish life where continuity and the invitation of new leaders in ministry are ongoing challenges. The need for young catechists, drawn from university students and other cohorts, was emphasised as an opportunity. We are certainly aware that the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) has begun to engage younger catechists in this way and we hope to see a growth in this engagement in future years as it allows young people to model to other youth the shape of discipleship and mission. The need for guidance in ways of prayer, formation about the Mass and youth participation in liturgical roles were seen as areas of improvement while social opportunities for youth before and after Mass was shared as a means of forming connections in the context of faith.
There was a deep appreciation of the faith and traditions of our ethnic communities and the call for a more organised approached to welcoming newcomers and migrants in our parish communities. The celebration of significant feast days and cultural events were raised once more as ways of reaching out and raising awareness of the richness of the Catholic community.
In response to the vocations of clergy and laity there was a call for the wisdom and experience of older generations to be allowed to enrich the community as a whole, while stronger formation in the common priesthood of the baptised faithful was another emphasis of the evening.
The commitment to evangelisation was clearly heard at the consultation, with outreach to young mothers, families in the parish and social justice outreach in schools being raised as prospects for future action. The need to be inclusive of the disabled was a further important area suggested toward the Diocesan Pastoral Plan.
Thank you to all participants who joined us at Quakers Hill, for their hospitality to ourselves as a pastoral planning team and to each other in the sharing of ideas and a common faith. We look forward to updating you again soon with our second interim report which will summarise the key findings of the consultations since April 2012. This summary of viewpoints will also be shared with our diocesan clergy at an upcoming formation day and invite responses from each of our seven deaneries. As we take a break from consultations over the coming school holidays, please continue to keep us and our diverse parish communities in prayer as we approach the next recommendations phase of our planning process.
Yours in Christ,
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On Tuesday 19th June, 2012, the pastoral planning team joined parishioners of Padre Pio and Sacred Heart parishes at Glenmore Park. New parish priest of Glenmore Park, Fr Robert Reidling, introduced the consultation evening and shared his appreciation that while it may be too soon for some to look ahead to future goals, given the recent departure of Fr Kevin Lee, for those prepared to share it provided an opportunity to have their voices heard and for him to hear the longer terms goals which the parish would like to work towards. It was also important to honour the consultation evening as it was planned before Fr Kevin’s departure and to hear as well from the parishioners of Sacred Heart, Luddenham-Warragamba, as equal stakeholders in the future Diocesan Pastoral Plan.
Some 54 participants shared their responses to the five pastoral priorities over the following two hours, with great enthusiasm for building upon the good works already underway in our parish communities and beyond. Thank you to all for their goodwill, honesty and generosity as we discerned the best pastoral initiatives available to us for the coming years.
In support of families, it was suggested that connecting with families following baptism was essential in realising and growing a community of faith in life. It was recommended that consideration be given to the ways in which parent relationships could be supported, as well as parent-child relationships in the context of parish life and faith. The generation of resources, literature and support, were underscored as vital in supporting families in faith which is the ultimate goal of our planning together.
In the area of youth the emphasis fell on cultivating communities that provided pathways of involvement for young people, from encouraging the outreach of energised, young Catholic adults in our State Schools to homilies that spoke also to the realities and decisions of young people’s lives.
Ethnic diversity was recognised as a gift to the Diocese and a point of interrelation between parish communities, drawing connection between people across parochial boundaries. However, more could be done and consultation with the Diocese’s multitude of ethnic groups was affirmed as essential. On this note, we can certainly confirm that our ethnic chaplains have been invited to organise and facilitate forums for this purpose with their people. We hope to deepen this engagement in the coming months.
In the area of laity and clergy, existing Lenten programs were affirmed by the parishes as a strength to be celebrated while the need for better communication of existing services and programs were again raised. Given the limited size of parish bulletins and the plethora of announcements that can demand time during liturgy, the challenge of communicating the many good things happening through the Parramatta Diocese remains. Please continue to email us on this website with your ideas in this area. The need for faith formation and follow up following RCIA, a process known as ‘mystagogia’, was also affirmed as future activities with which to more deeply engage.
Finally, in the area of evangelisation the need for outreach to fathers was emphasised and the need for the Church to provide practical support for people in need as an expression of Gospel love that can draw people deeper into the faith and community. A number of other initiatives were raised, centring on faith formation, which underlines the significance of the Institute for Mission and parish-based leaders in this regard.
A sincere thanks to both parishes for their expression of faith in their own communities and the Diocesan community as a whole. It was an affirming night that brought to focus the essentially missionary character of the Church and our shared commitment to the best possibilities of the Gospel in a new time.
Yours in Christ,
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On Thursday 14th June, forty seven people took part in the consultation held at the parish of St. Aidan’s Rooty Hill, which included parishioners from St. John Vianney at Doonside. It was raised that, as parishes, we are many parts of the One Body and that these parts need to interact more for a common purpose. The idea of more inter-parish events was suggested. The theme of the need to catechise families with the critical role of parents handing on faith came through on a number of occasions during the evening.
Some existing faith practices being celebrated between St. Aidan’s and St. John Vianney parishes include the Junior Legion of Mary and Holy Hour/ All-night Eucharistic Adoration. There was a call for addressing the divide between the zealousness of people active in apostolic groups in the parish and those who do not participate at all and that there is a need for different apostolic groups in the parish to work in unity with the priest.
In support of family life, it was felt that parents don’t bring their children to the faith and that parents forget they have to answer for their children’s faith/lack of faith. It was proposed that we need to start within – from where we are – in our own family and then share it with other families. Some of the ways this could be done was through role modelling important values of our Catholic faith, reading the daily Gospels, and keeping families together in the faith through maintaining traditions such as Holy Days of obligation and feast days. It was suggested that forming choirs for the parish was another way of keeping families together in the faith.
In terms of connecting with the young, there was strong endorsement of the importance of parents engaging with young people and that youth need adults to guide and help them. Youth especially need mentors and guides. We need to encourage youth to be more involved in ministry in the church (readers, liturgical ministry). There was a need to start looking at the messages given to young people and there was a concern that the messages given through youth ministry and schools were “not always accurate or authentic.” It was important to promote vocations by way of information workshops and a holy hour with reflection time. It was felt that many of our young people were poorly catechised i.e. not knowing the basic teachings of the Church.
In regard to Clergy and Laity it was felt that while we are good at our commitment to various duties around the parish that the challenge in front of us is in promoting active parish groups. In terms of Parish Leadership, it was stated that “we don’t have people prepared to stand up and take initiative and that too much still falls on father…” There was enthusiastic endorsement of the need for courses to be run on the pastoral dimensions of our faith and that these courses be run for parishioners at the parish level. Further, we need training for everyone (formation for trainers). It was felt that Introductory Sessions for Potential Catechists needed to be run either at the Institute for Mission or in the parish. In the area of Liturgy, it was suggested that more deacons, seminarians, altar servers and missionary priests from overseas be engaged in parishes.
The mission of the New Evangelisation: It was felt that more formation activities need to take place locally rather than at the Institute for Mission. Evangelisation starts in our own families with our encouragement of our younger family members to be involved in parish and faith life. The first objective of the New Evangelisation is to deepen the faith of those already practising their faith (formation courses). Can parishes and deaneries devise schedules of seminars and talks about our faith? Is there a way of presenting the Catechism with visual aids? We can begin Evangelisation by creating a friendly, welcoming atmosphere, and to witness the joy of our Christian faith and community. An important follow-up to this was for family and home visitations. There is value in increasing faith awareness among family members and creating more co-operation between apostolic groups. When parish organisations gather together…then what? No answers….It was suggested that all the different parish apostolic groups should work in unity with the priest. Another thought was that there be a monthly gathering and fellowship of all organisations in the Parish. Some other suggestions included youth having inter-parish discussions and also to note that Catholic schools are places where there are opportunities to engage in faith discussions. There is great value in retreats and encouraging people to immerse themselves in their prayer life. We need to begin to introduce our faith to non-Christians by handing out bibles, DVD’s pamphlets and books about our Christian faith and one cannot go past a personal invitation for people to join a parish group.
There was a keen-ness of spirit and encouraging suggestions from the parishioners of Rooty Hill and Doonside. The scriptural idea of the One Body and many parts and of the need for these parts to interact more with each other has much to offer Pastoral Planning as does the need to start evangelisation within our own families. If the parts of the Body are dynamised, so, too, will be the Body of Christ in our Diocese.
Fr. Paul Marshall
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On Tuesday 5 June, eighty people took part in the consultation held at the parish of Our Lady of the Way, Emu Plains, which included parishioners from St Finbar’s Parish at Glenbrook. The need for greater awareness of and active co-responsibility for the mission of the Church was raised, as was the baptismal responsibility of all Catholics in the variety of their vocations. The importance of Catholic teachers as witnesses to the faith was underlined, as was the need to uphold faith and identity in the midst of social changes which can run counter to Gospel values.
There was an affirmation of local initiatives already underway, including youth masses and outreach initiatives including St Vincent de Paul, and a call for a strengthening of youth support and evangelisation in the media. These were just some of the responses gleaned from a positive and hope-filled conversation.
In support of family life, it was felt that we need to promote the primacy of family life, that, as a faith community we strive harder to keep marriages together, and that we minister to those members of families on the margins of society such as those in prison and the elderly alone in retirement/aged care. That we engage CatholicCare more through the Ambassador program to parishes-hence bringing the agency closer to families. We also need to offer something more at each Mass for children, adolescents and parents.
In terms of connecting with the young, it was suggested that we are losing them from 8 years old and above. We need to build pride for young people in being Catholic. We do not have enough social centres with trained youth ministers/counsellors and a facility to offer counselling, not only to youth but to their parents too. There is a need to establish a drop-in centre for youth for pregnancy counselling, gambolling, drugs and also as a recreational centre. There is a need to engage young people more at Mass on weekends and to introduce new and exciting music for the youth to sing along. A suggestion was to introduce youth Mass into the Sacramental Program. We do the social justice dimension well in terms of the Vinnies Van. It was suggested that parishes each Sunday create a Liturgy Sheet relevant for children. A suggestion was made that the priest and principal share a same blog page. We also need to meet young people where they are, not where the Church wants them to be. We need to establish a balance between the fear and love of the Lord and to highlight the consequences of their actions. Create teams of young people to evangelise. Also to introduce chat groups. There is the challenge of dealing with time-poor parents failing to bring youth along to parishes and the resultant dis-engagement of young people with parishes. There was a call for a stronger connection with the Diocese and our Bishop by way of actual physical presence of the Bishop in the parish.
In regard to Ethnic Diversity, it was felt that we were all good at celebrating our own ethnicity in a group (but not sharing it around). There was a need to guard our Christian dignity from Government interference: attempts are made to water down and quieten our expressions of faith especially at Easter, Christmas etc. We need to blend and bring together the diverse existing sub-communities within our parishes. We need to recognise and make attempts towards a more inclusive attitude and outworking of the Gospel.
In regard to Clergy and Laity it was felt that we need to consider renewed models of Church that encourage active participation and increased shared decision making, including by women who have brought so much to the Church. Small groups were suggested as a starting point to bring people into leadership through acknowledging individual gifts and talents in a common mission as the people of God. There was support for the better collaboration of laity and clergy as a lifelong process and based on communication.
In terms of parish partnerships, Fr. Peter Confeggi spoke of how Blacktown and South Blacktown are keeping their identity but also sharing together their RCIA and Sacramental resources. This brings forward a need to educate the congregation about the “meaning of Church” and our shared responsibilities for its mission.
The mission of the New Evangelisation: begins with an awareness of the comfort zone and the need to engage clergy and laity actively in the encouragement of the “ Christmas” and “Easter” Catholics to regularly join the church family in worship. Handel’s concerts at Christmas to entice the older people back into Church. That this could begin with letter box drops at Christmas and Easter; concerts in the style of Colin Buchanan for young families and children; there is a need to adopt and adapt the strategies of other evangelical organisations. Promotion of quality Christian multi-media; setting up a Christian evangelising radio station; initiating more bible study groups.
Thank you to all who came equally from Emu Plains and Glenbrook and who gave of their time, faith and insight on a wild and windy and rainy night in Sydney.
Fr. Paul Marshall
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