Pastoral Planning for the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta

Seven Hills, Lalor Park – 11 May 2012

A great sense of love and responsibility for the Church

seven hills parishioners-15On 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.

200 x 133 parishioners1-12In 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.

seven hills parishioners2-9No 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.

seven hills parishioners3-7How 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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