Faith in Our Future Blog - May 2012
Fifty four people from the Richmond/Windsor area met last Monday night. The gathering was in the parish hall, which is an extension of the original church built in 1859.
The importance of Family came through strongly: the need to socialize more after Mass; the need for the priest to welcome newcomers at every Mass and direct them to appropriate information and sign-up sheets; the need to develop a Welcome Package for parishes. It was felt that Baptism preparation could be given during pregnancy; for those who are sick and elderly in hospital that there is a need for families to inform their parishes because privacy laws don’t allow hospitals to contact parishes. The importance of home visitation was stressed along with the need to connect with non-baptised children and families. It was felt that connections need to be built between Bede Polding High and Parish Liturgy/celebrations. A way to connect Parish/School would be through a Family Liaison Person (CEO model, Sydney) and this is a way to engage with parents.
Good homilies were considered to be important and they need to be crafted and aimed towards Young People. It was thought there was a need to modernize music aimed at the young and that we need to encourage youth participation and ask them what they want from their faith and their parish. We need to look at what students are being taught in Religious Education. There is a real need to emphasise the unique role young people have and how important they are and that they can make a difference in society.
The existing strengths of our Clergy and Laity relationship were found in Café series of faith presentations, social gatherings, the pastoral council support of the priest and the varieties of ministries found in parishes. The challenges to Clergy and Laity include the need for good adult faith formation and catechesis, supporting the priest in the management of the parish, better communications and more witness of the priest in local schools and the bishop at the parish level. A leading question proposed by the group was: Is it possible for the Parish Priest to delegate more?
With New Evangelisation it was felt that we “do keep trying” but we need to learn the meaning of evangelization from other parishes who are doing it better and even to learn methods of approach from non-Catholic communities. Areas of challenge were “that we don’t act like a missionary Church” and that we don’t reach out enough to non-Catholics or disconnected Catholics. Schools were seen as potential mission-areas and there is a great need to deepen the connection between schools and parishes. We need to establish welcoming committees. There is a need to promote more strongly bible study prayer groups, prayer groups and missionary works. A challenging comment included “ If we are really serious about bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to life, into reality, and into the world, why are we not reaching out at this stage to the vast majority of Catholics who have become estranged from the church to ask what is working well for them and what changes need to be made for them who have become estranged from the church….” A partial answer to this was that the various agencies of the church such as the CEO and CatholicCare are, themselves, evangelizing agents in the Diocese who are already reaching out and touching those disconnected from the Church. The question was posed how these agencies could be made more effective in reaching out to those disconnected? E.g do a survey of our parish-school families- ask them how many do NOT go to church regularly-ask them why not and what do they need?
There was a real sense of care and concern and the need to outreach especially to those ‘on the edge Catholics’. I was enthused by the energy and good-will of the Richmond-Windsor people who entered into consultation last Monday night. May the Spirit of Pentecost and the foundation stones of this consultation lead us on with hope and mission to an enlivened “ Faith in our Future.”
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Last Wednesday night (23 May), despite State of Origin football, brave souls from Holy Name Parish at Rydalmere and St. Bernadette’s at Dundas Valley braved the cold and engaged with the issues of pastoral planning. The group posed the question of how, as parishes, do we know which families are in need? And how do we care for those families when their plight is known?
Family Life and Youth were the big issues for discussion. In terms of Supporting Family Life an issue named was the need to turn and look outwards to the families attending Mass and most especially the need to look out for new families. Discussion pointed to outreach to new and ethnic families and while there was a real openness for inclusion, it was felt that new pathways could be explored in terms of welcome such as forming a pastoral support group, welfare committee and/or family groups where areas of need can be met in a more personal environment.
Some suggestions for the Connecting of Youth included surveying high school and primary students to see what they want and need and then to initiate this survey in co-operation with the schools. Also, to employ an active youth worker to be shared between parishes and to have more involvement from the Deanery. Another thought was the need to design special Liturgy e.g. a musical band and engage the young people in music and liturgy.
With engaging ethnic groups in the parish, a suggestion was to initiate smaller groups of families sharing a meal and story-telling on a regular basis after Saturday night Mass. Over time, all parishioners would receive an invitation to come to a meal. The evening would begin with a fun ice-breaker to put people at ease followed by a meal and sharing about family and culture.
New Evangelisation: There was a strong conviction that, as Catholics, we are reluctant to share the truth and the meaning of our faith and that we are too nice in our approach and need to be more firm and forward about professing what we believe. It was felt that we reframe the school RE program K-12 especially in the State schools: there was the sense that the current program is pitched too high for unchurched families. Another idea was that we establish a Catholic TV channel / Catholic Website and have a more up-front presence on talk-back radio.
Yours in Christ, Fr Paul Marshall
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On Wednesday night (16 May) we joined the parishes of St Patrick’s, Guildford, and Holy Family Parish, East Granville, for conversation in the new BER facilities at Guildford. Participants were eager to engage with the pastoral realities of the Diocese and, in particular, to explore the notion of mission in terms of evangelisation and the proclamation of our faith. Encouragingly, participants spread themselves evenly across the 5 diocesan pastoral priorities, ensuring good feedback in all areas of concern.
In the area of family life, there was an urgent sense of the need for families to take responsibility for the transmission of faith, supported by the wider Catholic community but above all by the practices of family prayer and family social activities that fostered the connection between faith and life.
The need to consult young people in their hopes and struggles was another recommendation of the night, with the need to build connections between our parishes and schools raised as an ongoing opportunity through regular visitations by our priests as well as lay ministers.
In the area of vocations, there was a genuine concern for the welfare of our clergy and an affirmation of the support provided to them at a local level. However, more support was called for from a Diocesan level. Participants shared as well their hope that the diaconate would receive a stronger focus in the years ahead, for service in our growing parish communities.
Other tables recognised the challenge of welcoming alienated and estranged Catholics back to the Church and our need to learn from their experience. Another need in the area of evangelisation was to support men in faith, particularly those over the age of 35, who were often neglected in the Church’s pastoral care. Formation was surfaced once again as necessary for an effective evangelising mission and this included the need for Catholics to know their faith and to share it generously with others.
Thank you to the parishioners of both parishes who gathered together last night in faith to offer their suggestions and directions for our future years. It was a pleasure to meet new people and listen to the vivid sense of hope that parishioners hold for the future of our parishes and the Diocese as a whole.
Yours in Christ, Fr Paul Marshall
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On Friday night (11 May) 76 parishioners from Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Seven Hills, and St Bernadette’s Parish, Lalor Park, gathered to share their hopes for pastoral planning. The atmosphere was electric in the desire to engage across many pastoral issues. The initiation of some networking of ministries between these and other parishes in the local area gave hope for more collaborative approaches to ministry in the future.
The priority of “connecting with youth”, as for previous consultations, attracted the greatest number of discussion tables. Critical issues that arose included the need to understand young peoples’ sense of worship, the need to demonstrate more rigour in witnessing to our faith and active engagement in the liturgy.
In terms of connecting and supporting families, the issue of low worship and participation rates of Catholic school families was a recurrent theme, shared across a number of tables and priorities. A delegate of the Parents Representation Group to Catholic Schools was present and shared her hope for greater engagement and collaboration of Catholic schools, Parent Representatives and Diocesan Pastoral Planning into the future. A response was identified in the need to strengthen and form the faith of parents, enabling faith to be passed on to children as well as encouragement to live the faith ever more fully.
No doubt partly inspired by the recent departure of one of our priests from the Diocese, and the accompanying media coverage, issues concerning clergy and laity attracted significant interest and comment. Concerns that were raised included a perceived complacency among some parishioners regarding the life of the Church and a feeling that the role of women in the Church was not given the recognition it deserved. A robust discussion about the priesthood ensued. What was striking was the great diversity of views on such issues. It was recognised that some of the proposals raised were matters for the universal Church and well beyond the authority of a local diocese.
The challenges for the priority of ethnic diversity were named as “not knowing the story and background of different ethnic cultures” and that, as parishes, we need to create more opportunities for learning about the different cultures among us. Suggestions included forming a parish group in charge of ethnicity, welcoming them and seeking their views are about faith and life, a ‘Festival of Nations’ and social events within and beyond parishes. Liturgy was also proposed as an opportunity for ethnic engagement, with the suggestion of multilingual intercessions and music for Parish Feast Days and for Pentecost and Christmas.
How do we do evangelisation better? A welcoming spirit and creating a community that people want to be part of were seen as essential, as was the need to emphasise the Gospel more. There was a suggestion to offer a ‘welcome book’ at weekend Masses, allowing ‘new names’ to be followed up with home visitations or parish information packs delivered by parish team members or a Welcoming Committee. Formation for lectors was identified as key so that the Word is proclaimed clearly in liturgy and it was thought there was a need to undertake more research on the reasons people are not active in Catholic parishes today (our blog readers might note that a 2007 research study on ‘why Catholics stop attending Mass’ is available here on this website). The good work already taking place through the CCD and RCIA was acknowledged by participants and there was openness to learning from other Christian churches and being attentive to the ways in which we talk about the faith with others.
These were just a few of the significant insights that emerged from the evening at Seven Hills. We thank all those who participated and contributed in such a dynamic and constructive way to the consultation, as well as those who offered written reports as well. Please keep praying for us so that “Faith in our Future” may become a mission lived in Christ and lived in fact. Please pray for our Pastoral Planning Officer, Daniel, and his wife Sara as they prepare for the birth of their first child.
Yours in Christ, Fr Paul
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Fifty eight parishioners from Our Lady of the Rosary Parish, St Marys, and Holy Spirit Parish, St Clair, participated in our most recent consultation on Thursday 3rd May. It provided a valuable opportunity to hear of the pastoral initiatives already underway in the area and surfaced opportunities for the Diocese as a whole.
One of the prominent themes of the evening was the integration of diverse ethnic cultures and faith taking place at St Clair, including in the celebration of the liturgy. It was suggested that the stories of ethnic communities and persons be shared at appropriate times in the parish, raising awareness of the challenges and richness of diverse lives. For its part, St Marys shared the vital outreach to youth in the local community enabled by the Don Bosco Youth Centre. It underscored the need to consider local services and commitments already in the place in the development of the Pastoral Plan.
During the table feedback, some of the challenges named included the lack of sustained commitment in ministry due to burnout, a reality which invites a reconsideration of the ways in which we do and support ministry.
In the area of vocations, it was suggested that young people be given the opportunity for a week of ‘live-in’ experience of the priesthood or religious life without the demands of formal commitment reserved for the next stage of enquiry. There was also an emphasis on the need to promote the breadth of vocations – single life, clergy and religious, married life, as well as support those in widowhood or times of transition.
In the area of youth there was a focus on representation of youth leaders on the committees and in the ministries of the Diocese, the need for effective formation and training of youth, connecting a wider audience of young people to communications already in place (e.g. the Bishop’s Facebook page and homilies online) while also providing opportunities to learn about prayer.
The priority of evangelisation surfaced the need to invite ‘outside families’ into parish life and giving them an opportunity to journey together in faith. There were suggestions to reach out to men especially. There was an expressed concern that faith engagement in our Catholic schools remained a challenge while another felt need was the channeling of energy into service of the growing number of the aged in society and the question of parishes could better assist in this pastoral care.
Further ideas raised included the promotion of sponsorship for priests of diverse ethnic backgrounds, better preparation of overseas priests for ministry in Australian parishes, marriage preparation conducted by married couples, and reaching out to the family as a ‘domestic Church’.
The consultation expressed a real desire of people to make a difference with their faith and we thank parishioners of both parishes for their participation, insight and generous sharing of ideas. The feedback from this evening has already been sent to both parishes and we hope will enable planning at a local level in anticipation of the Diocesan Plan in the year to come!
Yours in Christ, Fr Paul Marshall
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