It is with great joy that we celebrate the appointment of Bishop Anthony as the new Archbishop of Sydney! It was wonderful to be part of the press conference last Friday in which Bishop Anthony shared his hopes for the ongoing renewal of the Church, expressed his gratitude for his time as chief shepherd and pastor of our Parramatta Diocese, and also expressed confidence in the people of God throughout all areas of Sydney to make their contribution to the mission of the Gospel, to the building up of our society in harmony and peace through its parishes, schools and many ministries.
While we are sad to see Bishop Anthony leave the Diocese of Parramatta to head eastward, we are thankful for his living legacy – our Diocesan Pastoral Plan, Faith in Our Future, which will continue to guide our communities, agencies and ministries. The Archbishop-elect shared in an interview following his appointment, “I think we have a wonderful treasure in the Catholic Church and what it teaches us that we should pass on to people” (Vatican Radio, 18 September, 2014). It was touching to hear our Pastoral Plan named as one of the leading achievements of his time in the Parramatta Diocese as bishop.
The mission of evangelisation, sharing the rich treasure of the Gospel, forms the heart of our Pastoral Plan and the great hope of the thousands who participated in our consultations over the past two years. Faith in Our Future captures that communal hope, and expresses the great commitment of our people, our clergy and lay leaders, and parishes as a whole to grow and share their faith with vitality. This is the perennial mission of our Church and we carry this task into our future with both confidence and energy.
Much has been achieved in this first year of our Pastoral Plan, with much more to unfold. In our parishes, new parish pastoral councils have formed while existing pastoral councils have taken up new ideas and initiatives to grow their outreach. A renewed emphasis on welcome has been a strong point of focus for many communities with parish welcome packs, welcoming teams and social media now in place across the Diocese. Parishes are now collaborating in youth ministry and in the area of adult formation while partners of our Pastoral Plan, including Catholic Alpha and Catholic Charismatic Renewal, are now leading parish retreat days and opening opportunities for people to talk about their faith, reflect on the life of Jesus, to pray and take the Spirit of the Risen Jesus into the world.
On a diocesan level, some of the highlights of this first year include:
- the overhaul of the Chancery with a new structure and a renewed emphasis on service delivery and improved collaboration with our parishes and communities;
- the establishment of a new Family and Life Office, with the renewal of the Office for Child Protection and Safeguarding and the strengthening of related processes;
- the introduction of fresh leadership for Catholic Youth Parramatta as well as CatholicCare Social Services, the chief vehicle for the Diocese in the provision of social support services;
- the launching of a comprehensive review of the Religious Education curriculum in our schools, conducted by the University of Notre Dame, and its implementation in the year ahead;
- the review of the structure, identity and mission of our migrant chaplaincies that serve the diversity of our people;
- the renewal of the Institute for Mission and ongoing development of a faith formation framework to deepen the experience of discipleship and faith education of our people;
- the building of the new Holy Spirit Seminary at Harris Park, now fully occupied.
As we approach a new time for our Diocese, we look to the future with great hope, commitment and expectation. We are blessed to be one of the youngest and most diverse dioceses in the country, if not the world, and are widely recognised as being at the forefront of pastoral ministry and organisation for mission.
Faith in Our Future will guide us in growing our faith and sharing the Gospel in Western Sydney, a task we will exercise with excellence not merely because of our Diocesan Pastoral Plan but because of the discipleship, dedication and mutual support of our people.
Next month, a new resource Welcome and Evangelise will be launched by our Pastoral Planning Office as a further support to our parishes to live their mission. Keep connected via our website for this new resource and others (www.faithinourfuture.org.au) and for more good news of renewal from across the Diocese. Please keep Bishop Anthony in your prayers as he undertakes his new appointment, and also our parishes and communities as they live out their evangelising mission in the name of the Gospel, the source of our life and faith, now and into our future.
With blessings and every good wish,
Director, Pastoral Planning Office