The past week has been a difficult one with Case Study #50 before the Royal Commission. This particular case study will last for three weeks and the information coming from it will be difficult and shameful. I hope you have seen a copy of a letter from Bishop Bill to the people of the diocese regarding this case study. Bishop Bill wrote:
Living through this time is pretty shattering for those of us who have loved the church and had our lives enriched and blessed through it. But we have to come to terms with the reality of the vast evil that has been part of its story. There is no denying it. Now, for the sake of all that is good, we have to change. The important Case Study #50 will be very significant in understanding the ‘cultural change’ that we must, must embrace.
On Friday staff members from the Chancery, the CSO, CatholicCare and St Nicholas, along with principals from our schools, gathered for our opening year diocesan staff Mass. The theme of this Mass, coming from Mark’s Gospel (Mk 7:31-37) was ephphatha – be opened. Fr Brian Mascord, the principal celebrant, spoke of listening with our hearts. I am sure this is what our Sunday readings invite us to. The law is just the first step in making good and wise decisions that impact on our relationships, with God, with each other and with our environment. However, we are impelled to look deeper into our hearts, so as to participate in building up the kingdom of God. The law alone is not enough, and if we are to take on the cultural change required to be a more authentic church, then we must begin to listen with our collective hearts.
On Thursday those commissioned as Pastoral Ministers across our diocese met. We gather about four times a year to pray with each other, to meet socially and to share more deeply during formation time. At our meeting, we were invited to break open the Mission and Outreach foundation of our diocesan planning framework. Those who gathered minister in parishes, in hospitals, at the port and in gaol. The facilitator asked us to share something that we celebrate. I thought I would share with you this amazing list:
- World Youth Day both at the local and international level
- New schools
- The number of people who volunteer and participate in community outreach
- Sacramental programs
- Parish evangelisation which leads to people being involved in RCIA
- Welcoming communities
- A Moderator who is open to exploring new ideas
- The vocation of those who care for others
- Bringing Christ to others
- Seeing Christ in others
- Sacramental care
- Scriptural interpretation which is not fundamentalist
- Part of a universal community
- Our drive to be merciful and to seek justice
- Our humanness – we are created in love as humans who are not perfect
- Visiting and ministering to those who are isolated
- People who are proud of their faith
- We are involved in Catholic chaplaincies in ecumenical and interfaith settings
- Diversity in culture
- Seafarers are accepted in the community
- Renewal movements
- Compassion is shown in a variety of settings
- The development of ‘cell groups’ in the Chisholm region
- Our 150 years as a diocese
- The Religious Sisters in our diocese
- Support of faith by fellow Catholics
- Involvement of the laity
- Our school relationships with our parishes
- A personal relationship with Jesus Christ
- Our willingness to change
- Care for the members of our communities
- The formation that is offered.
Indeed some of this happens in specific ministries, while most of it is the church/parish living in a local community. I think we all felt a deep sense of pride when we had finished sharing and listening. It is these opportunities that call us to discipleship. We are all called to go out into our world and to baptise and teach as disciples to new disciples. We need to acknowledge what is evil but then to make Jesus real.
It is good to have Fr. Richard Shortall SJ, our Missionary of Mercy, back with us for two three-month spells this year. Please take the time to know his whereabouts and connect with him. For the next three weeks he will be in All Saints Parish, Blackbutt South (Adamstown, Cardiff and Kotara). Everyone is welcome to take part in his daily Praying in Everyday Life experience or to contact him for a personal conversation or the Sacrament of Reconciliation. You can phone him on 0448 292 523 or email MOM@mn.catholic.org,au. You may also like to hand his details on to someone who is struggling with an aspect of their life, and who would like the accompaniment of a compassionate ear.
This week we have been invited to search the deeper mysteries as to what motivates us, because it is from our hearts that good or evil actions flow.
Sunday’s Collect prays it beautifully:
O God, who teaches us that you abide
in hearts that are just and true,
grant that we may be so fashioned by your grace
as to become a dwelling pleasing to you.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
May the speck of God’s dust that we are, transform our hearts and minds so that those who encounter us may see something of the divine mystery within and ponder their desire for more.
Don’t forget to check all of the events that are featured in our Dio Bulletin. I know there is a wonderful liturgy to mark the beginning of Lent and Project Compassion and there is a Caritas Dinner with Richard Campbell, who features in one of the Project Compassion stories about the Kinchella Boys Home Project. And on Friday night we will be celebrating with our catechists from around the diocese.
Happy St Valentine’s Day to the romantics among us!