National Pastoral Planning Conference
Fr Paul and I recently attended the National Pastoral Planners’ Network Conference held on the Gold Coast, Queensland. The network brings together those working in the area of pastoral planning for dioceses across Australia and New Zealand.
As the planning team for our own Diocese of Parramatta, the conference provided an important opportunity to learn from others in the field and to share insights gained from our own process here in Western Sydney. Each diocese has its own gifts and faces its own particular challenges while sharing a commitment to the one Gospel and the best of our Catholic tradition. It was inspiring to hear the good work that is being done across the country and abroad.
The opening address was provided by Archbishop Mark Coleridge who underlined the need for a genuinely missionary Church, focused on Christ as the fulfilment of the deepest longings of the world. Acknowledging the Church’s tendency toward an unhealthy introspection in the wake of the Reformation and in the face of modernity, the Archbishop reaffirmed a personal encounter and proclamation of Jesus in the midst of the Church as the central imperative of our work, which he summed up neatly as “mission planning”.
The keynote address recalled for me the Second Vatican Council’s insistence that the Church was “missionary by its very nature” (Ad Gentes 2). It follows that our parishes, diocesan agencies and people do not exist for themselves but for mission. This mission is not a territorial concept, about going to a particular place or limited to service overseas, but about a quality of daily living which expresses the love and will of God who seeks to bring all humanity to salvation and to knowledge of the truth. Mission challenges us all, as a diocese and personally, to respond with ever greater love to the mission of God that we encounter in the face of Jesus.
Subsequent keynotes from Bishop Eugene Hurley, Chairman of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference for Pastoral Life, and Australian theologian Richard Lennan focused on the need for a receptive Church, open to the questions of our people and our time as well as attentive to the resources of our Catholic tradition, not as a burdensome or unmoving weight, but as a resource for creative living in the present and future.
Several internal and external influences on the Church were also presented by Richard Lennan for our consideration as Church workers seeking to foster a common sense of mission in our respective dioceses. There were the internal tensions over the last fifty years in interpreting and living the Second Vatican Council, the desire for a more definite ‘Catholic identity’ twinned with longings for more personal forms of Catholic life; then there is the ongoing clerical sexual abuse crisis which has deeply undermined the credibility of the Church, the effects of migration and the ever changing relationship between clergy and laity that also shapes our Catholic reality. External influences on the Church were also recognised, including the need for hope amidst the darkness of human experience and the challenge of pluralism which comes at the same time as greater global interdependence.
It became clear to us that pastoral planning is challenged with the work of mediating between our Catholic tradition and our present context, without neglect of either as we seek to support the flourishing of faith in this Diocese. The views that you have shared through the consultation process and the wise advice submitted to us in hardcopy and online have been a part of this communal discernment about our future as the people of Parramatta.
Don’t forget you can still submit your response to our draft parish goals by clicking on this link. We cannot plan for a future alone and need your contribution to make our plan the best guide for our future years that it can be.
As we return to our work on our Pastoral Plan, Faith in Our Future, there is a deep sense of the need to honour our past, understand our present reality and be open to new opportunities for the future. We will keep in touch as we finalise our parish goals with your help and prepare the central vision of our Pastoral Plan which we hope will engage all our people in the mission that lies before as disciples of the Risen Jesus.
Yours in Christ,
Posted by Daniel Ang at 3:23 PM