During the week I facilitated a meeting regarding the diocesan calendar. Over many years we have been working towards an attempt to have a co-ordinated calendar in the diocese, mostly to avoid clashes but also to try to co-ordinate our communication channels to parishes and organisations connected to us. We are keen for people to know what we are doing and when, and to invite them to come along.
Part of this calendar meeting involved identifying the communication channels we might use to get the information or message out there. I will list these for you and invite you to ponder the change in communicating over a short space of time – the diocesan website, dio update, mnnews.today, Aurora, social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), Bishop’s communiqué, the Clergy Bulletin, external networks (other church groups and agencies), bulletin notices, Rhema FM and media releases. Most of these communication sources are via technology and yet there are those who are part of our worshipping communities who do not connect via that medium. Over a relatively short space of time, we have moved from a mainly print medium to an electronic platform. Snail mail, as we now call the normal post, is almost redundant and we are expected to receive and respond to communication almost immediately, either by phone, email or by text and Facebook. Cash and the cheque, as a means of paying bills, have been replaced by electronic transfers or credit card payments.
These observations are indicative of the nature and the pace of change and those of us who share in the responsibility of God’s mission are attempting to find ways to deliver the message so that people might engage and possibly encounter Jesus and experience a call or a conversion of heart.
This past week I have attended meetings of the Diocesan Pastoral Council, Sisters of Islam dinner, the Ecumenical and Interfaith Council, the Social Justice Council, Stepping Stones, Calvary-Mater Mission Vision and Values Committee, Hunter Ecumenical Social Justice Network, Integrity in the Service of the Church, just to name a few. Everyone engaged in these groups is grappling with the best way to inform people of the many initiatives that are available to them, to assist in their faith formation and development as disciples and for discipleship.
I know there are many wonderful opportunities for people, but the culture of busyness seems to be blocking people’s capacity to hear and then to commit to be involved. We have amazing tools to link people together but we lack the time, space and energy to really connect. This is a complex issue and one that will remain with me in my ponderings. Personal, face-to-face invitations and encounters still have the best appeal and yet we have lost something of this because of the many tools of connection which seem just to serve as background noise.
Some of you reading this message may be critical of the resources and energy that must go into populating these tools of communication, with their messages seemingly overlooked. Christianity is a communitarian religion which is based on people coming together as community, to be formed, to be immersed in the Word, to gather at the table of the Lord and then to go forth to live this good news in the world. I think what we are trying to do is to invite people to an experience of community, of education and formation, of meeting other Christians who believe and live that belief to the full. We are attempting to be a leaven in the world, a light on the hilltop, a point of difference.
Our 150 Years as a diocese is coming to a close with three key events still to be held:
- The Diocesan Pilgrimage Walk from Morpeth to Maitland on Saturday October 29
- The Dedication of St John’s Chapel at Maitland on Sunday November 6
- Open House and the close of the Year of Mercy on Sunday November 20 at Sacred Heart Cathedral.
I am looking forward to these gatherings of a small section of our community of faith. Of course it would be wonderful if the wider Catholic community came along but we know that is unlikely to be the case. I am certainly aware of the many people involved and the work that has gone into ensuring these functions are well organised and yet I sense that many who could be present will miss out because they fail to realise the graces that flow when we gather as a people of God. It has been the desire of the 150 Year Working Party to provide opportunities for people to come together, to remember, to share their stories and feel a deep sense of pride and satisfaction in the good that has been achieved while also acknowledging that harm has been done. I am disappointed that more have not come along to share in the celebrations that have been held. One does not encounter Jesus on one’s own. We need each other to be nourished and renewed in faith.
I believe that in parishes, schools and the groups who are involved at the wider diocesan level there is a real attempt to make Jesus real. But if people are not ready to listen and respond we are but a gong sounding in the desert. I am not advocating that we give up, however I just wonder how collectively we can do it better.
I received a card from Elizabeth Doyle this week which had the following Serenity prayer on it:
God, light of my life, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen. On it was placed a Celtic cross which served to remind me of my own Irish heritage and the faith journey of my ancestors.
Just contemplating my journey with you,
Vice Chancellor Pastoral Ministries