Faith in Our Future Blog - March 2012
On Friday night (23 March) we were at the parish of St Paul the Apostle in Winston Hills for our last consultation before the Easter break. Some 70 parishioners joined in the conversation and the ideas and suggestions flowed throughout the night!
One of the many issues raised was that in the cut and thrust of parish life, it is an often small number of people that are involved in leadership and service. Active ministers are also often involved in more than one ministry, balance a number of parish, personal and professional responsibilities, and therefore the risk of weariness, burn out and the routinisation of ministry was ever present. It followed that there was an expressed need to invite others into service, not simply, however, to avoid fatigue but also so that the gifts and potential of innumerable others might enrich the community as a whole.
The need for formation in evangelisation was again a stated need, while the desire for young people to have ownership of pastoral initiatives in communities was raised. The difficulty of declining enthusiasm for established programs and initiatives was a comment made by two groups of participants, a reality linked perhaps to the limited circle of active ministers upholding ministries.
The idea of rotating youth masses around our deaneries was a suggestion toward encouraging youth participation, as well as the representation of youth on parish councils as an existing consultative body within parish life. Developing opportunities for participation and leadership for young girls in school and beyond was an additional aspiration voiced during the evening.
Ecumenical dialogue was named as an opportunity for sharing and the exchange of fresh ideas with other Christian communities, while the style and tone of homilies was viewed as a factor influencing participation in parishes. Participants also raised the need for our people to become more innovative and also joyful in their celebration of the faith, witnessing to the vitality of the Gospel and the Church community as a communion that offers life as well as challenge.
While the conversation is only in its beginning stages, we have been delighted and invigorated by the seven hundred people or so that have shared their voice and their advice at our consultation events so far and online through our website, which averages around three hundred visitors a week. The time and energy given to these conversations is a great sign of hope for our Church and contributes immensely to the development, discernment and substance of our Diocesan Pastoral Plan.
With many more consultations to take place, we would encourage all our blog readers to share the upcoming dates with their relatives or friends so that we can hear more of what matters to the people of our Diocese and how the Church can serve people better in the years to come.
Over the next few weeks, the Pastoral Planning team will begin processing the feedback gathered so far and sharing this with our diocesan agencies for their best thinking and response to the needs identified to date. Please keep us in your prayers in this important work and thank you to all those who have made the consultation phase of our pastoral planning process a truly joyful and uplifting experience. Keep an eye on this website for more to come!
Yours in Christ, Daniel
Posted by Daniel Ang at 5:27 PM Comments (0) Permalink
On Tuesday night (20th March) we joined the parishioners of Wentworthville and Westmead at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, Wentworthville, for our penultimate consultation session before the Easter break. We were met with great hospitality and Fr Paul Sireh led us in prayer before the night’s discussion began.
Among the points raised was the potential to foster small communities of learning, offering as they do a more intimate environment for participants to exchange faith and social engagement outside the context of liturgy. A related emphasis was on the need for formation in evangelisation at a local level so that all members of the Church can take responsibility for outreach, rather than simply a few.
In the area of family life, the offer of marriage preparation and also marriage enrichment were raised as essential to the support of families, and following up with the families of those recently baptised was named as needing a more coordinated response. The formation of the young was identified as both a parental responsibility and a responsibility of the whole community of faith.
In the area of ethnic diversity, there was a remarkable exchange of ideas. Some shared the important social and cultural support that chaplains provide for newly arrived and migrant groups, while the issue of integration was also identified as an ongoing challenge so that the diversity of faith expression and embodiment might enrich the Church as a whole. There was a willingness to wrestle with the tensions of unity and diversity, upholding the value of each as a part of a truly catholic experience of faith.
Religious Institutes and congregations were also identified as an ongoing gift to the Diocese, the charism of such communities being a source of a Spirit-led mission for lay men and women as well.
The pastoral care of the elderly was not forgotten, especially for those transitioning from independent living to nursing homes and hospices. The need for chaplains and relevant contact persons to keep the connection between the broader parish community and those living away from the parish was underlined. Pastoral care was also recognised as critical in evangelisation and outreach, especially at key moments when people may be encountering the Gospel and the Church anew, for instance, at baptisms, weddings and funerals.
Engaging with the full range of social media available was once again noted as essential to a Church that communicates, as well as ensuring local staff and personnel in parishes were proficient in the creative use of such technology.
These were just some of the insights gleaned from the evening and we thank all the participants for their enthusiasm and energetic contributions. It was wonderful to meet so many people of good faith from both parishes.
Yours in Christ, Daniel
Posted by Daniel Ang at 4:17 PM Comments (0) Permalink
Some seventy parishioners made for a lively conversation at St Patrick’s Cathedral Parish on Tuesday 13th March. The consultation brought together parishioners from Parramatta as well as North Parramatta and Harris Park. Bishop Anthony joined us and affirmed the growth of our Diocese as a remarkable opportunity for evangelisation and pastoral care, a sign of hope for the living and sharing of the Gospel in future years.
When discussion began, participants identified young adults as a potential area of response, especially single young adults and young professionals who may not feel comfortable in either the context of family groups or the younger youth groups currently on offer.
The need to encourage familiarity with the story of newly arrived migrants was highlighted, as were pilgrimages and feast days as vital means of sharing in and celebrating the diversity of our people. It was important to hear of initiatives that were engaging people in faith and an active sense of community in the local area. The richness of parish experience offers possibilities for the Diocese as a whole to consider in the months ahead.
Another notable emphasis on the evening was the need for effective communication, both in terms of sharing the richness of Catholic faith in the wider community and raising awareness of the pastoral programs and events that are available even now within our Church.
In listening to the responses of the evening, it struck me that faith in the future will, as always, be the fruit of neither technological method or simply a matter of the appropriate structures, necessary as these are, but will ultimately be inspired and nourished by the witness of a community focused on the mission of God revealed in Jesus Christ.
The people we have met throughout the consultation process so far have been testament to Christian discipleship that is alive, intentional and engaged with contemporary pastoral realities.
Over the Easter break we will continue processing the data received so far, including the online submissions which have flowed in, and share them with our diocesan agencies for their response. Remember, for those who may have already attended a consultation session please don’t hesitate to write to us via this website and share any ideas that have since come to mind. We are only at the beginning of a conversation and need your continued prayer and suggestions for the future years of our mission.
Yours in Christ, Daniel
Posted by Daniel Ang at 2:22 PM Comments (0) Permalink
On Thursday night (8th March), we joined two of the youngest parishes in the Diocese, Our Lady of the Angels, Rouse Hill, and Blessed John XXIII Parish, Glenwood-Stanhope Gardens, for an energetic conversation about the future.
The relative young profile of these communities and their location within growth areas of our Diocese was common ground for these parishes, with Blessed John XXIII established in 2002 and Our Lady of the Angels established some five years later. This profile was reflected in the focus on two priorities in particular: supporting family life and the need for outreach or a new evangelisation.
The importance of inviting families and individuals to actively participate in community life both within and beyond the liturgy was underlined. Regular and welcoming social gatherings were one suggestion, as was the need to consider dedicated personnel to liaise between the parish and school communities. Fundraising for local pastoral initiatives and parish workers was another issue of concern.
Support for faith throughout the life-cycle was raised, and age-appropriate pastoral programs were suggested as a good starting point to invite people into engagement with the wider parish community and leadership development. There was positive feedback on the agencies within our Diocese, such as the Institute for Mission and the work of CatholicCare, but also a call for wider community support for the discernment and living of vocations, including for seminarians and deacons who were in need of active support and encouragement.
The promotion and witness of prayer outside of Sunday Mass was also raised as an opportunity for evangelisation and a more holistic approach to faith, as was the need for Catholics to know their faith better and to be able to articulate that faith in the public square. It was felt that mainstream media did not always provide a full picture of the positive contribution of the Church, both spiritually and socially, in Western Sydney and beyond and that this was a story that needed to be told by more Catholics in the years ahead.
Our special thanks go to the parish team of Blessed John XXIII for their assistance in hosting the evening, and also to the parishioners of Our Lady of the Angels who came to share their passionate commitment and experiences of growth and challenge with us.
Yours in Christ, Daniel
Posted by Daniel Ang at 3:31 PM Comments (0) Permalink
Last Thursday night (1st March), parishioners from St Patrick’s Parish, Blacktown, and St Michael’s Parish, South Blacktown, came together to share their ideas toward our Diocesan Pastoral Plan.
We began with an acknowledgment of the late Fr Gerry Iverson, a priest and friend who contributed so much to the life of the Diocese and whose ministry touched the lives of so many. Fr Robert Reidling led us in prayer before we turned to an overview of our diocesan life and trends.
As discussion began, it was wonderful to see an even spread of people take up each of the 5 pastoral priorities, the most even spread of participants thus far! The enthusiasm and commitment of participants toward a renewed future of mission was clear.
Those who considered ‘family life’ as a priority noted children’s liturgies as a positive initiative that continued to support families, however it was suggested that further resources for families to pray and live faith together were called for. Better support for men and fathers was a further area of need identified, as well as developing connections between families and raising awareness of services that could assist families, particularly during family crisis or breakdown.
The link between the parish, school and family was affirmed as a critical relationship for the faith development of young people as was the availability of audio-visual resources that would engage youth with contemporary issues of faith, justice and evangelisation.
The challenge of retaining newly arrived migrants in parish life was a challenge named by those who addressed the ethnic diversity of our Diocese, as well as the need to offer practical support including language services to encourage participation in parish life. The role of migrant chaplains was also noted as vital in fostering interaction between migrant groups and the broader Catholic community.
In the area of support for laity and evangelisation, similar themes emerged. Chief among these was the role of formation in supporting lay men and women in articulating their faith and sharing it with others. It was also suggested that a ‘welcome home’ program be considered to reconnect with those who may not be strongly connected with their parish community. Family support groups were once again raised as an aid to fostering faith connections, intentional discipleship and a means of outreach to other families who may not be so connected with community life.
Our thanks goes to the parish team, youth interns and hospitality team for their assistance and to the parishioners of St Patrick’s and St Michael’s for giving their time and energy to the conversation. The quality of the responses was outstanding and focused on the task of serving people better in faith.
Yours in Christ, Daniel
Posted by Daniel Ang at 1:37 PM Comments (0) Permalink