Why Our Pastoral Plan Matters
This season of Lent reminds us of the need to match the faith that we live with the Gospel mission we have been called to fulfil. It is a season of repentance and conversion in which we measure the ‘gap’ between our reality and our promises as disciples, between the quality of our witness and our best hopes for our faith into the future.
As the Bishops of NSW shared in their recent Pastoral Letter for Lent, the present time is ‘an opportunity for the purification of the Church – a Lenten return for each one of us personally and all of us collectively’ (Sowing in Tears). We are called to return to Jesus, as the source of our life and the one who ‘sends’ us out to be his witnesses in the world (John 20:21, Acts 1:8)
Our developing Pastoral Plan will seek to promote and support this conversion here in the Parramatta Diocese. By offering a vision for our Diocese as a whole, for our parishes, youth groups, religious and the ecclesial movements that form our Catholic community, our Pastoral Plan will seek to bring our best hopes into the present, inspiring and challenging each one of us as disciples to grow in our faith and extend this faith to others as bearers of Good News.
While the Pastoral Plan will offer many practical recommendations to strengthen the life and mission of our communities, at the heart of every structure and every pastoral initiative is the question of conversion.
The heart of renewal in the Church is a renewed belief in Jesus Christ and the mission of his Church. Only conversion to Jesus’ person and his message can lead to a heart for service and a heart for evangelisation. Only when people begin to grow in the Gospel can the Church begin to grow.
In this way the Pastoral Plan hopes to be a question not only for ‘others’ but for each one of us in our various vocations: ‘How can we be a part of a stronger and more vibrant faith here in the Diocese of Parramatta?’
Of course we need plans. Wanting to grow is not enough; we need to plan to grow. Growth does not happen without goals, without making plans and defining strategies. However, if we do not grow spiritually then all else will be in vain. Lent calls us precisely to this conversion, a deepening of our discipleship as Christians and as a community of discipleship, as a Church.
Our Pastoral Plan will also seek to strengthen the mission of the Church. This mission of evangelisation is at the heart of the Gospel as we see in Jesus’ Great Commissioning (‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’; Matt. 28:19).
It has been remarked that the Church is the only community organised primarily for the benefit of its non-members! That is, the Church exists for mission, for the spread of the Gospel to those who do not know Christ or could know Him better.
Pope Paul VI made this clear throughout his pontificate, including his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, in which he writes of the Church, ‘She exists in order to evangelise, that is to say, in order to preach and teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace’ (EN 14). As this same Church, how do our homes, our parishes, our communities of faith open the door of faith to others? What do we offer others when they arrive at that door and how do we ensure they know and feel their home is with us?
Through your feedback at our consultations held last year and through research into the best practices in Australia and abroad, the Pastoral Plan will offer a variety of recommendations for keeping the mission of Jesus before the eyes of your community and to empower its people to live the mission of evangelisation with purpose and creativity.
The Pastoral Plan will likely be launched in the second half of 2013. It will not be a timeless theological statement but provide common pastoral priorities and recommendations as a source of inspiration and direction for parishes and the many complementary groups and ministries of our Diocese. It aims to promote conversion and mission and calls for your faith and engagement to make a real, genuine difference in and beyond our communities of faith.
You can keep in touch with developments throughout the coming months through our website and also send in your comments and best advice through the contact details available there.
With every blessing in this season of Lent,
Fr Paul Marshall and Daniel Ang
Pastoral Planning Team
Posted by Daniel Ang at 2:19 PM