Pope Francis made headlines when he kissed and blessed a man in St Peter’s Square who suffered with boil-like tumours appearing over his head and body. Like Jesus responding to cries for help from the sick, our Holy Father courageously and lovingly embraced him. At the dawn of the third millennium, his predecessor and soon-to-be-saint John Paul II invited the Church to “put out into the deep” (Lk 5:4) and take up anew the great mission of evangelisation (Novo Millennio Ineunte 1-2). He reminded us that holiness is the foundation and touchstone of all pastoral planning (31).
At this time, I am excited to be launching Faith in Our Future, our Pastoral Plan for the Diocese of Parramatta. Like Pope Francis, like John Paul the Great, like Jesus Christ Himself, it calls us to be fearless in our proclamation of the Gospel, in word and deed. We want to be, as Pope Francis exhorts, “bold and creative in this task of rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelisation” (Evangelii Gaudium 33).
The launch of our Pastoral Plan is the culmination of two years of conversation and discernment about the future of the Diocese. Thousands of people from Rydalmere to Blackheath, from Windsor to Granville, contributed their ideas in public consultations or online. Last year, we also consulted our agencies and clergy, religious institutes and migrant chaplains. All contributors have raised fresh ideas and directions for our families, parishes, schools, chaplaincies and diocesan ministries to better respond to our needs and to support our Catholic community’s growth in faith.
Faith in Our Future has two basic goals for us in the next five years: to grow in faith and to share our faith. When Jesus was asked to name the greatest commandment of all, the big reason for existing, He replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and soul, and mind . . . and your neighbour as yourself” (Mt 22:37-9). To grow in our faith is to grow in love of God. To share our faith is to love our neighbour and invite him or her into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, Lord of the Universe.
Catholic disciples of Parramatta should know and love their Catholic faith, encounter Christ in His Word and Sacraments – that is, in the Bible, Confession and the Eucharist – and go into the world proclaiming the Good News of the Gospel, unashamedly sharing their faith with family, friends, work colleagues and others. They must be disciples who reach out to others, evangelise by witnessing to Christ in all facets of their lives and invite others to know Christ and His Bride, the Church. In short, we must invite others to ‘come and see’ Jesus and ‘go and tell’ His story.
The Pastoral Plan
To grow and to share our faith we will focus on five areas of greatest need and potential: our families, youth, ethnicity, vocations, and evangelisation. Each of these areas offers opportunities to foster new and mature disciples for our 21st Century mission.
Inside Faith in Our Future you will find a number of resources and fresh directions that your community of faith, parish, ministry group or family can take up and use to build a stronger future of faith.
Parishes will find almost one hundred suggestions for renewal. Actions that will inspire parish pastoral councils, ministry groups, sacramental teams and welcomers are included. Our parishes are also invited to collaborate more often, and share their wisdom and expertise. By working more closely, we can live our mission in a united way, minimise duplication and make the most of the resources we have.
Included are a number of new initiatives for our diocesan agencies including CatholicCare, our Catholic education system, the Institute for Mission, our Youth Office, our ethnic chaplaincies and many more. These will better support all our people in their discipleship, relationships, formation and mission in the wider community.
You will also find an implementation guide for the variety of people and groups that make up our Diocese. No matter what your gifts and the role you play in the Church or wider community, there is a place for you to join us in this great mission of building the Kingdom of God in Western Sydney.
Our pastoral planning website offers additional resources for renewal (www.faithinourfuture.org.au) and a new Pastoral Planning Office has been established to support you and your community in making the most of this opportunity to grow and share our faith as disciples, called and sent, by Jesus Christ.
Faith in Our Future is much more than a document. Its success depends on more than good intentions. It is an opportunity to live the Gospel in the Diocese of Parramatta in fresh, creative and faith-filled ways. But it needs your support, prayers, gifts and time in order to succeed. Let us confidently call on the Lord as we move forward with love, with hope, with faith in our future.