By Fr Paul Marshall and Daniel Ang, Pastoral Planning Team, Catholic Outlook, December 2013/January 2014
As we enter the Advent season, a time of hope and anticipation, we look ahead to the launch of Faith in Our Future, our Diocesan Pastoral Plan, in February 2014.
It is time to give thanks to the many hundreds of lay men and women, our priests and deacons, religious, Chancery staff, agencies and ministries of the Diocese for their collaboration, advice and support over the past two years.
As the landscape of faith continues to change across our Diocese, planning for our future becomes more important than ever.
We are now bringing to a close the development of our diocesan plan, and preparing for its launch and the establishment of support structures to ensure that all parishes, ministry groups and members of our Diocese are invited to participate in the variety of ways that we live our Gospel mission.
Our Pastoral Plan will be a response of faith to the call of God to grow the Church and its mission by our best thinking, prayer and effort, all the while imploring the graces of God.
It represents our Diocese taking a proactive stance towards the future, a recognition that we need to refocus and prioritise our resources to best respond to change, not just in this moment but also in the years ahead.
As you will be aware, we are one of the youngest dioceses in Australia with 30% of Parramatta Catholics under 19 years of age. We are one of the most diverse dioceses in Australia, if not the world, with one-third of our people born overseas. We are experiencing population growth and the opening up of whole new suburbs.
In the light of these realities, our best days are yet to come and our Pastoral Plan will be a statement of confidence in our future and also our confidence in you, our people, who shape the Church and its mission by your participation.
While there are undoubted challenges for our community of faith at this time, ‘sowing in tears’ in a time of repentance, our conversion as disciples is also propelled by hope, a forward-looking vision and anticipation of a stronger future of faith.
Faith in Our Future will include announcements about new initiatives, proposals for new churches and Mass centres, adoration chapels and the expansion of ministries and agencies.
There will be new initiatives to address homelessness and social support needs, and more parish education and support in the area of marriage enrichment and relationships.
The Pastoral Plan will also include nearly 100 ideas for every parish and parish ministry group to engage with and implementation guides have been prepared for all the people who lead the mission of our parishes by their service.
In the New Year, our pastoral planning website will be refreshed: http://www.faithinourfuture.org.au On the new site you will find the complete and abridged versions of the Pastoral Plan.
Hardcopy versions will also be distributed widely in February and March 2014 so that every Parramatta Catholic has a chance to contribute to the 21st Century mission given to us by Christ.
As we conclude our work for the year, we wish you, your families and communities a joyous Christmas and we look forward to celebrating the launch of Faith in Our Future with you in 2014.
As we anticipate the birth of Christ in this Advent season, we anticipate the grace of renewal He offers in every age to every generation. We give Him thanks for the life and unity of our Diocese as a community of disciples on mission.
With our gratitude and best wishes,
Fr Paul Marshall and Daniel Ang, Pastoral Planning Team.