Penrith, Kingswood and Cranebrook: Expressing joy in being Catholic
On Wednesday (22nd August 2012) over sixty people took part in the consultation held at the parish of St Nicholas of Myra at Penrith, which included parishioners from St Joseph’s Parish, Kingswood, and Corpus Christi Parish, Cranebrook. There was keen recognition of the challenges for the social dimensions of faith, including online communities and competing sporting groups and social groups, however there was also a commitment to share the Gospel and best of our tradition at every opportunity.
In terms of the priority of family life, one response to the above challenges was for social activities in parishes to purposefully engage with the issues of welcome, belonging, life-stage support groups and, more specifically, to reinitiate mothers’ groups, playgroups and to look anew at current opportunities including the Passionist Family groups among others.
In terms of connecting with the young, one of the young people at the consultation stated emphatically that loud or rock music at Mass was not necessarily attractive to youth but rather they were drawn to meaningful music and lyrics in the context of good and participative liturgy. For the young, it was felt that there was a struggle to rise above the peer pressure coming from social media and various other friendship and sporting groups which often took precedence over parish initiatives. It was felt that we need to research the experience of Anglicans and Pentecostal communities to see how they are ministering with their young people. There was a desire to engage young people and their families in early primary school with extra-curricular faith options by way of social activities, including games. The need to have catechists in State high schools, especially in years 7 and 8, was seen as critical in the formation of young people in their faith over the longer term.
In regard to ethnic diversity, it was felt that we need to engage these communities in a deeper way outside of Mass times, especially by learning about the way their cultural group engages the faith and to learn and understand their expressions of faith. It was suggested that we need to engage ethnic people in their families: befriending them and coming to appreciate their worldview. The idea of the multicultural night with Mass, prayer and food was proposed.
In regard to the priority of laity and clergy, it was felt that many of our Catholic faith communities are unforgiving regarding priests and religious who make mistakes. One of the clergy expressed the gap he experienced between the expectations on him and the limitations he has as a human being. It was acknowledged that we are variously gifted but that this is often an untapped resource and that more encouragement is needed for laity to ‘step up’ into active ministries. It was felt that we do not affirm our priests enough for their homilies and that not enough is being done in promoting vocations, not only at schools and parishes but especially within families. The need to encourage teachers to be more pro-active in promoting the Catholic faith and ethos was again raised as a concern and opportunity. There was a felt need to offer and promote much more “local” courses of formation so people did not have to travel as far for access to such nourishment.
Those who looked at the mission of a new evangelisation affirmed the need to name the contact points for evangelisation, including our sacramental programs which reach across school, family and parish and baptismal preparation and other liturgical moments such as marriage which were viewed as ‘prime times’ for evangelising.
It was here that the point was strongly made that we, as Catholics, need to express the joy of being Catholic, that our animation and attitude are key to good evangelisation. We need to promote joyful, loving and welcoming communities in our own parishes where people know each other and express this visibly. We also need much more personal engagement at a personal level to encourage people back to Church and that one-on-one, personal invitation is critical to people returning to the Church. Engaging in topical talks on issues of the day attracted many people, an experience that the people of Penrith appreciated in recent months.
We thank the keen and enthusiastic parishioners who participated in this consultation. It was even more poignant to reflect on the past and future of parish communities given the transition of clergy at Penrith and Kingswood parishes in recent times. In this respect, there was gratefulness for the ministry of Fr Chris de Souza over many years and also Fr John Watkins, and anticipation of the ministry of incoming clergy to Penrith, Fr Mathew Antony and Fr Jose Mandalay. We certainly look forward to sharing the summary of the night’s discussion with the priests and people of this region for their future pastoral life and mission.
Yours in Christ,
Fr Paul Marshall