Co-responsibility for Mission at Emu Plains-Glenbrook
On Tuesday 5June, eighty people took part in the consultation held at the parish of Our Lady of the Way, Emu Plains, which included parishioners from St Finbar’s Parish at Glenbrook. The need for greater awareness of and active co-responsibility for the mission of the Church was raised, as was the baptismal responsibility of all Catholics in the variety of their vocations. The importance of Catholic teachers as witnesses to the faith was underlined, as was the need to uphold faith and identity in the midst of social changes which can run counter to Gospel values.
There was an affirmation of local initiatives already underway, including youth masses and outreach initiatives including St Vincent de Paul, and a call for a strengthening of youth support and evangelisation in the media. These were just some of the responses gleaned from a positive and hope-filled conversation.
In support of family life, it was felt that we need to promote the primacy of family life, that, as a faith community we strive harder to keep marriages together, and that we minister to those members of families on the margins of society such as those in prison and the elderly alone in retirement/aged care. That we engage CatholicCare more through the Ambassador program to parishes-hence bringing the agency closer to families. We also need to offer something more at each Mass for children, adolescents and parents.
In terms of connecting with the young, it was suggested that we are losing them from 8 years old and above. We need to build pride for young people in being Catholic. We do not have enough social centres with trained youth ministers/counsellors and a facility to offer counselling, not only to youth but to their parents too. There is a need to establish a drop-in centre for youth for pregnancy counselling, gambolling, drugs and also as a recreational centre. There is a need to engage young people more at Mass on weekends and to introduce new and exciting music for the youth to sing along. A suggestion was to introduce youth Mass into the Sacramental Program. We do the social justice dimension well in terms of the Vinnies Van. It was suggested that parishes each Sunday create a Liturgy Sheet relevant for children. A suggestion was made that the priest and principal share a same blog page. We also need to meet young people where they are, not where the Church wants them to be. We need to establish a balance between the fear and love of the Lord and to highlight the consequences of their actions. Create teams of young people to evangelise. Also to introduce chat groups. There is the challenge of dealing with time-poor parents failing to bring youth along to parishes and the resultant dis-engagement of young people with parishes. There was a call for a stronger connection with the Diocese and our Bishop by way of actual physical presence of the Bishop in the parish.
In regard to Ethnic Diversity, it was felt that we were all good at celebrating our own ethnicity in a group (but not sharing it around). There was a need to guard our Christian dignity from Government interference: attempts are made to water down and quieten our expressions of faith especially at Easter, Christmas etc. We need to blend and bring together the diverse existing sub-communities within our parishes. We need to recognise and make attempts towards a more inclusive attitude and outworking of the Gospel.
In regard to Clergy and Laity it was felt that we need to consider renewed models of Church that encourage active participation and increased shared decision making, including by women who have brought so much to the Church. Small groups were suggested as a starting point to bring people into leadership through acknowledging individual gifts and talents in a common mission as the people of God. There was support for the better collaboration of laity and clergy as a lifelong process and based on communication.
In terms of parish partnerships, Fr. Peter Confeggi spoke of how Blacktown and South Blacktown are keeping their identity but also sharing together their RCIA and Sacramental resources. This brings forward a need to educate the congregation about the “meaning of Church” and our shared responsibilities for its mission.
The mission of the New Evangelisation: begins with an awareness of the comfort zone and the need to engage clergy and laity actively in the encouragement of the “ Christmas” and “Easter” Catholics to regularly join the church family in worship. Handel’s concerts at Christmas to entice the older people back into Church. That this could begin with letter box drops at Christmas and Easter; concerts in the style of Colin Buchanan for young families and children; there is a need to adopt and adapt the strategies of other evangelical organisations. Promotion of quality Christian multi-media; setting up a Christian evangelising radio station; initiating more bible study groups.
Thank you to all who came equally from Emu Plains and Glenbrook and who gave of their time, faith and insight on a wild and windy and rainy night in Sydney.
Fr. Paul Marshall