“I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. I do not want a Church concerned with being at the centre and which then ends up being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures.” (EG #49)
During 2015 those involved in Pastoral Ministries – Parishes, Diocesan Councils, Chaplaincies, Life and Faith Ministries, Communications, Bishop’s Office − have engaged with people, explored possibilities and enabled passions. The overall purpose of this work is to “invite Christians everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them...(EG #3)
So what new pastoral initiatives are we exploring in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle?
At a diocesan level we have combined a number of ministries which serve parish communities to form the Office of Life and Faith. The key purpose of this Office is to assist parishes and schools to connect the Church gathered with the Church scattered. We do this through Special Religious Education in State Schools, through our Sacramental Programs, in Marriage and Relationship Education and in Parish Family Liaison by attempting to connect our school families to those who are actively involved in our parishes. This intentional outreach is also the mission of those who minister in our chaplaincies – Port, Prison, Hospital, University, Industry, Armed Services, CatholicCare Social Services, Schools and Aged Care.
This year we introduced the Pastoral Placement Program for young people to explore their faith with our ministries of outreach – Parishes,
CatholicCare Social Services, Schools, Refugees, Chaplaincies, Caritas as well as through formation opportunities. These young participants have journeyed with trust, enthusiasm, generosity and commitment, while continuing to explore the call of their baptism. Impressively, they are seeking first the Kingdom of God (Mt 6:33).
Formation opportunities have been offered for those involved in parish ministries. Some of this formation has been practical eg Integrity in the Service of the Church or Spirituality for Ministry; while other offerings have been more personal and spiritual such as Fr Richard Shortall sj’s ‘Retreat in Everyday Life’. It is certainly our belief that faith is a lifelong process which needs nourishment through the intellect as well as an encounter with the sacred – in prayer, in community rituals, in silence, through scripture, in readings, through art and music. Many have availed themselves of the wonderful opportunities to grow their faith and to share it with others. These experiences have assisted and nourished the participants to go and make disciples (Mt 28:19).
Some of our parishes are exploring models of lay leadership. The framework for this leadership comes from our Diocesan Pastoral Planning Framework which understands parish ministries in terms of five foundations – Identity and Community, Worship and Prayer, Formation and Education, Mission and Outreach, Leadership and Structure. Some parishes have lay Parish Leadership Teams; others are forming leadership teams to support the Parish Priest while some have a Pastoral Co-ordinator. Bishop Bill believes that parishes form the centre of the life and mission of our diocese. It is not possible for our clergy to support, sacramentally, pastorally and administratively, our 39 parishes and 78 Mass centres without the generosity and commitment of the lay people. The call of the baptised is both for the ordained and non-ordained who work with each other, collaboratively and co-responsibly, to be priest, prophet and king.
I conclude with the words of Pope Francis: “I dream of a....missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channelled for the evangelisation of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.” (EG #27)
Article originally published in the the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle Year in Review 2015.