The first months of our Pastoral Plan have been an adventure of faith with parishes throughout our Diocese reading, reflecting and putting Faith in Our Future (2014-2018) into action. As shared in previous blogs, parishes including Quakers Hill, Baulkham Hills, Marayong, St Clair, Seven Hills and the parishes of Blacktown have gathered leaders and pastoral councils in the past weeks to discuss ideas for pastoral renewal with the support of our Pastoral Planning Office.
This momentum continues to grow with the parish pastoral council of St Finbar’s Parish, Glenbrook recently gathering to discuss the implementation of the pastoral plan in their community. Potential actions that were discussed included a parish census to allow the community to update its database of parishioners as well as to invite people to share their pastoral needs and areas of interest (Action 4.5.1.). Good information about the people who form our parishes allows teams and leaders to develop strategies to acknowledge significant milestones and anniversaries among its members, to sustain connections and build communion in parish life. When people experience an increased sense of belonging, their active participation in the mission of the parish increases with it and the Church grows as a whole.
Strengthening the welcome of our communities has also been the focus of parish pastoral councils and leaders at Good Shepherd Parish, Plumpton, Sacred Heart Parish at Westmead, St Patrick’s Parish, Guildford, and Our Lady of the Rosary Parish, Kellyville, all of which have started to consider new initiatives in the area of hospitality. St Bernadette’s Parish, Lalor Park, has conducted a survey of its parishioners on issues of faith, to identify areas of strength, weakness and opportunity to which the ideas and resources of our Pastoral Plan can provide practical support.
Following the Easter break and ANZAC long weekend, we joined the clergy and lay leaders of the Diocese of Bathurst, sharing our learning and experiences of planning on the levels of diocese and parish over the past two years. Our commitment to fostering a culture of collaboration includes exchanging ideas with neighbouring dioceses with whom we share mission.
We met with the parish pastoral council at Our Lady of the Rosary, St Marys, and heard of the many good parish initiatives underway in this community. In conversation with the pastoral council we underlined the danger of complacency in parish life and the fact that the Australian Church faces the real prospect of maintaining Catholic institutions, hospitals, aged care facilities, schools and the like but fewer parishes where the worship of God enjoins a community of the faithful.
This is all predictable unless new energy for evangelisation is found through a renewed faith that the Gospel is indeed Good News worth sharing. At the heart of the question of mission is the question of our faith. In response, the council at St Mary’s is currently considering a parish plan as a way of inviting even stronger participation in local mission, drawing from Faith in Our Future for inspiration.
The parish of St Nicholas of Myra, Penrith, also met with our Pastoral Planning Office and began to discern the key opportunities and challenges for the community to grow the faith of its people over the coming years and provide resources and confidence for parishioners to evangelise. With many of our parishes experiencing Mass attendance in the range of 10-15% of self-identifying Catholics in the area, there is an enormous opportunity to re-engage people with the person and message of Jesus and his living body, the Church.
Our partners in mission Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR) have also taken up our Pastoral Plan as a guiding vision in planning their own parish renewal program that they will offer to our parishes later this year. The collaboration of the local church with groups and movements such as CCR is the way of the future, bringing together rich and diverse gifts toward a common mission of growing and sharing faith.
Our deaneries have also been exploring the potential for collaboration in areas including RCIA, marriage preparation and the sacrament of reconciliation, to minimise duplication and offer our people a richer experience of the Church through a shared spiritual life.
So the momentum of our Pastoral Plan continues to grow. Thank you to all our dedicated clergy and lay leaders throughout the Diocese for their inspiration and innovation. There is more good news in store and we will share these developments in the weeks to come!
In the meantime, if you belong to a parish or ministry group looking for ways in which to renew its life, grow its membership and strengthen its outreach, then please get in touch with us through this website. We are eager and ready to assist all of our people in their ministries and mission.
With Easter joy,
Director, Pastoral Planning Office