Since the launch of Faith in Our Future some two months ago our parishes have embraced the call to renewal with enthusiasm and determination. It has been a delight to encounter so many people full of faith and creativity who see our Pastoral Plan not merely as a guiding document but as a mission to be lived!
Our Pastoral Planning Office has been supporting communities to reflect on their pastoral realities and potential for outreach, guiding leaders in their use of the Pastoral Plan as well as learning from the ingenuity of groups and individuals who have made the vision of Faith in Our Future their own.
There is tremendous goodwill among both clergy and lay leaders to renew their community life and ministries to support growth in faith and genuine outreach to others. It takes both faith and courage to change and many groups and individuals have shown both in stepping beyond the status quo and considering fresh directions and new ways to serve the Gospel and make it present in the wider community.
We know that when people grow and flourish in their relationship to Jesus through their local parish that they become more active and involved in community life and more confident and inspired to evangelise and share Christ with others. In short, ‘disciples make disciples’ and Faith in Our Future seeks to support this endeavour.
The twin parishes of St Patrick’s, Blacktown, and St Michael’s, Blacktown South, continue to pioneer the practice of collaboration and have now met a number of times to pray about and discuss key community-building initiatives that can be put in place by Christmas. By setting goals, communities of faith such as those at Blacktown can motivate people to take action, are able to review their progress steadily over time, and adjust their plans as they need with purpose and intent.
In the month of April, a workshop was held with over forty leaders of St Andrew the Apostle Parish, Marayong, in which leaders identified and discussed a range of potential parish priorities. This feedback is being reviewed before the leadership group reconvenes to move towards practical action in the weeks ahead.
The parish pastoral council of Holy Spirit Parish, St Clair, also met last month to discuss their response to Faith in Our Future and their developing parish pastoral plan. There was an emphasis on the need to reach out to those who live within our parishes, who identify in some way as ‘Catholic’ but are not as yet regular participants in the worshipping life of the community or engaged in Christian service. We shared with council members that many of the ‘unchurched’ we would like to reach for Christ are not strangers at all but are in fact in our homes, sitting at the dinner tables of practicing Catholics! It is a reminder that at the heart of parish evangelisation is the challenge to witness to a dynamic and growing faith in the context of ordinary, everyday life.
Parishioners met at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Seven Hills, to break open the Diocesan Pastoral Plan for the first time and explore the possibilities of renewal, particularly in connection with local schools and families. Meanwhile Sacred Heart Parish, Mt Druitt South, is discerning a new parish pastoral council to support its life in the years ahead.
In diocesan news, the Blue Mountains Deanery is planning for the establishment of a Pastoral Life Centre at Springwood to offer faith formation, resources and social support services closer to our people. The establishment of a new Family and Life Office is also underway with the mission to proclaim the Church’s teaching on marriage, family life and relationships as well as deliver resources and enrichment opportunities for families, a key area of need identified in our consultation process.
In this variety of ways, through the genius of our parishes as well as the work of our agencies, Faith in Our Future is becoming a dynamic reality throughout the Parramatta Diocese. All of this activity will shape a stronger future for faith in Western Sydney. As a Diocese, we are convinced of the need to be pro-active and creative to grow and evangelise, and the great fruit that has been born in the first months of Faith in Our Future have affirmed the presence of the Spirit of Christ, the true source of all renewal, in these works of faith and hope.
With every good wish,
Director, Pastoral Planning Office