Pastoral Planning for the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta

Greystanes – 31 July 2012

Looking Outwards at Greystanes

200 x 150 parishioners-24On Tuesday night (31st July, 2012), parishioners from Our Lady Queen of Peace, Greystanes came together to share their ideas toward our Diocesan Pastoral Plan. Fr Bob Bossini along with Fr Zachariah Gayed welcomed everyone.

Lively discussion ensued around youth, clergy and laity and the mission of evangelisation. General suggestions included creating more volunteering opportunities for young people in parishes and schools, employing Family Educators to link parishes better with schools, the need to address sacramental follow-up of families from baptism through to the sacraments of initiation and on to post-marriage reflection opportunities, using a variety of ways to make the homily more engaging including the use of technology and dialogue to engage with the realities and experiences of participants.

In support of family life it was felt that we need to address pre-marriage and post-marriage formation with an emphasis on developing family groups, mothers’ groups and bereavement groups to connect life and faith thereafter. It was felt that one expectation or goal that could be raised with families was a family contribution of service to parish or school life amounting to twenty hours or so per year. The need to offer spiritual formation for parents at schools was once again reinforced as was the possibility of setting up visitation teams to follow up on RCIA, baptism families and newly married couples. There was the challenge to reach out to families not in our Catholic schools through Facebook and other forms of communication.

In terms of connecting with the young there was a desire to engage them through multimedia at significant faith moments including those within the Mass and on youth retreats. Could parishes set up a Twitter account and know how to use them appropriately? It was asked, what are the volunteering opportunities for young people in Church mission and ministry today? How are vocations promoted in our secondary schools?

Ethnic diversity is a significant feature of many parishes in our Diocese. This gathering suggested the need to be aware of the presence of new groups in our parishes in order to assess their needs. Can we invite spokespeople from various different ethnic backgrounds to speak at Masses about their Catholic faith tradition, as celebrated by them, so that the local community can understand their ‘take’ on faith? Can aspects of different cultures be meaningfully brought into our liturgy?

In regard to growing and supporting laity and clergy, the number of clergy within the Diocese was expressed as a concern and the need of ongoing formation and encouragement of clergy was raised. There was the need to ease the administrative burdens on clergy and the idea of shared parish managers was suggested as an opportunity to do so, as well as to encourage collaboration between parishes. The formation of seminarians in the midst of laity was also encouraged to provide them with the experience of ministry in real world scenarios. It was felt that the baptismal rights and gifts of the laity were not always fully recognised and encouraged as much as they might be. One more powerful suggestion was the proposal to engage more people in parish ministry linked to the life-stage development of members within families.

In discussing the mission of the new evangelisation, the question was asked, ‘What is the New Evangelisation?’ Some discussion ensued which affirmed earlier comments that we need to be a parish looking outwards to the community around us. There is a need to welcome the newcomer and it was proposed that welcome cards be given out to new people at parishes. It was asked if parishes could run non-religious activities to attract new people to the parish, including fairs and social gatherings? Alternatively, parishioners could personally invite a non-practicing Catholic to come to Mass and attend a BBQ afterwards. Is it possible for the Diocese to host an event annually in the Parramatta Business District and bring together various religious groups and lay groups to witness to the difference that faith makes?

There was a keen sense of the need to reach out to others and to understand the Catholic faith through the eyes of other cultures than our own, to open up wider volunteering opportunities at parish, deanery and/or diocesan level and to link parish ministries to the life stages of our family members. I was encouraged by the sense of ‘mission-beyond-the-parish’ that emerged from this consultation and thank all the people of Greystanes for their welcome and thoughtfulness.

Yours in Christ,

Fr Paul Marshall

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