Building strong and vital parishes
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