Growing & Sharing Faith
The Diocese of Parramatta has two goals that shape its life and structures : growing our faith and sharing our faith in Jesus Christ.
By committing ourselves to these two goals as a Diocese – including our parishes, agencies, migrant communities, movements, families and individual members – we seek to become what Pope Francis has described as a “true field of faith” amid the suburbs and mountains of Western Sydney.
Growing in faith means our ongoing conversion to the person and message of Jesus Christ, coming to know him personally, following him in communion with one another, and expressing his Good News with love in every dimension of our lives. When people and parishes grow in relationship to Jesus:
- individual stories of conversion become more frequent and normal;
- individuals and parishes become more prayerful and worship more reverent and profound;
- there is a developing hunger for the sacraments, including Eucharist and Confession;
- there is an increase in biblical literacy and a hunger to read and share Scripture;
- there is a growing understanding of Catholic teaching and a desire to learn and share more;
- there is a stronger sense of belonging to a community of faith on mission;
- small groups and ministries begin to grow and attract new members;
- hospitality and social gatherings become more frequent as people share faith and life as members of one body.
Sharing our faith means spreading the Good News of Jesus we have received, witnessing to and proclaiming his life and message to the people of our time. If we are truly growing in faith as disciples we will become better witnesses. Pope Francis reminds us that “sharing the experience of faith, bearing witness to the faith, proclaiming the Gospel: this is a command that the Lord entrusts to the whole Church” (WYD Homily 2013). Every disciple is called to share their faith in Jesus, that is, to evangelise. When parishes and people share their faith in Jesus:
- more and more people are baptised into the life of Christ and the Church each year;
- communities grow in their sense of unity and purpose as stories of faith are shared;
- our families talk about the Gospel, pray at home and foster new generations of disciples;
- parishes invite others to ‘come and see’ but also to ‘go and tell’;
- there is increased outreach to the poor and dialogue with others beyond the Church.
Our Diocesan Pastoral Plan, Faith in Our Future, invites every Catholic community and disciple to become part of this twofold vision, to become mature and missionary disciples. To grow and share our Catholic faith challenges each one of us to become intentional disciples, filled with the love of God and the love of our neighbour. It is a vision of a growing Church and an expanding mission, trusting in the diverse, Spirit-given gifts of our people and the graces we implore from God.
This vision of a strong and evangelising faith can be best put into practice in our Diocese by focusing on our five pastoral priorities. These are our five areas of greatest need and potential. Each priority offers us an area where we can grow and share our faith with stronger missionary intent:
- Supporting family life
We need to support our families as the cornerstone of our Church and society, strengthening them in their love and helping them live the Gospel
- Connecting better with the young
We need to invite and support youth and young adults to grow in holiness and to become leading participants in the renewal of society and the Church by living their faith with commitment and enthusiasm
- Building upon our ethnic diversity
We need to celebrate, support and harmonise the diverse migrant communities in our midst, respond to their spiritual and social needs, as well as extend welcome and hospitality to newcomers to our Diocese
- Growing and supporting laity and clergy
We need to provide lifelong support for laity in their vocations, and grow and support our priestly vocations as well, provide opportunities for faith formation, and encourage the development of pastoral leadership in service to our common mission as the People of God
- New evangelisation
We need to reach out to those not strongly connected to their parish or who are estranged from our Church, inviting them to rediscover the joy of Christian faith and community
Faith in Our Future offers a range of practical ideas and concrete actions to bring our vision and priorities to life. It provides suggestions that every parish, church agency and member of our Diocese can put into practice and that will enable our Diocese to move into the future with confidence. By providing these actions we recognise that wanting to grow in and share our faith is not enough. As a Diocese, we need to be organised and united to achieve these goals and to make the most of the gifts and opportunities that God is offering us.
THE PASTORAL REALITY
The Parramatta Diocese participated in the 2011 National Church Life Survey, with responses from 3,750 adult Mass attenders aged 15 years and over and 209 children aged 8 to 14 years.
The profile below is an aggregation of results from parishes which are statistically representative of our Diocese as a whole.
These findings reveal the extent to which our people experience an alive and growing faith, and are willing and effective in sharing that faith with others:
Growth in faith
Attenders’ growth in faith in the past year (2010-2011):
Much growth through other groups or churches
Much growth through private activity
Of our church attenders, 24% say that in the last year they have experienced much growth in their faith through their parish while 50% of attenders experienced only some growth or no growth at all through their participation in parish life.
Willing and effective faith-sharing
Willingness to invite to church any friends and relatives who do not currently attend a church:
Willing, but didn’t invite someone in the last year
Probably wouldn’t invite someone
Definitely wouldn’t invite someone
Of our church attenders, 27% invited someone to church in the last year while more than 70% did not invite anyone or did not know if they would invite anyone to their parish. The research above challenges our Diocese, parishes and ministries to consider the extent to which our activities support the growth of faith among our people and an evangelising faith that shares the life of the Gospel with others.