I decided to use elements of each as connection and presence are the vital ingredients for a welcoming church and that’s the part I play.
May has been a very busy month particularly as it’s Confirmation season and Bishop Bill is visiting parishes. I’ve also had the good fortune of attending three conferences/workshops this month. This is akin to further formation and training but it’s also critical to reflect upon the content. You may relate to my experience; occasionally following a formation or training session you’re heading home thinking ‘not sure what I got out of that’. However, upon reflection or sometime later it hits you and you are open to explore what you heard back at the conference.
The Office of Life and Faith hosted its annual Family Faith Forum last Saturday with the focus being on parish life ‒ ‘Music, Meals and Message, more than Mass’. Sadly, only a small number attended the day but those present appreciated the time taken by an outstanding array of speakers. For me this begs the question, what is that people really want from our church? We maintain that the church is the people but the people who offer an occasion for faith enrichment need to be supported.
The Spiritual Care Australia conference hosted by Mary Ringstad and her team from Calvary Mater was not only an outstanding success but tossed up so many new ideas that were certainly challenging. It’s often said that people are not religious but are spiritual. This was indeed a recurring theme throughout the conference ‒ but just what is spirituality? Probably the most satisfying definition I’ve come across was from the Meaningful Ageing Australia workshop: ‘spirituality is the way we seek and express meaning and purpose; the way we experience our connection to the moment, self, others, our world and the significant or sacred’. This is an all-encompassing definition and whether I’m in the surf, watching the sunrise or praying in the church, I can feel the spirit with me.
That last thought is a segue into the feast of Pentecost.
Bishop Bill was celebrating Mass at St Philip’s Kotara South on Pentecost Sunday and in his homily he lamented that unlike Christmas and Easter, Pentecost is almost a forgotten feast. He added that it might be because it’s not commercialised – an idea he appeared to cherish – as there are no buns, chocolates or present-giving!
As those being confirmed (on the previous night at Kotara) listened to Bishop Bill he suggested that Courage is probably the most special of the gifts of the Spirit. We live in a time where some people are afraid to ‘own’ their faith. But as Reflects on the Holy Spirit in relation to the life of faith: the chapters consider how we become aware of the Holy Spirit's presence; review how the tradition of faith has interpreted the movement of the Holy Spirit; and detail what it means to discern and embrace the gift of the Holy Spirit. the Lord said to Paul in Acts 18:9-10, ‘speak out and do not keep silent’. Be bold in proclaiming your faith anywhere, anytime.
Last November my brother, Richard Lennan, launched his book The Holy Spirit : Setting the World on Fire. The book reflects on the Holy Spirit in relation to the life of faith. The chapters consider how we become aware of the Holy Spirit's presence; review how the tradition of faith has interpreted the movement of the Holy Spirit and detail what it means to discern and embrace the gift of the Holy Spirit. Grab a copy – it’s worth a read.
I attended St John’s, Lambton and St Joseph’s, Merewether’s Pentecost liturgies. The schools held the celebration in the church and what was special to both was the recognition of the birthday of the Catholic Church. Yes, there was a cake and cards in the celebration. Both liturgies highlighted the feast day in kid-speak and lots of parents joined the celebration. Sometimes I think the value of schools in our faith development is discounted. If we separate parish and school we are simply not functioning as One Body. Everyone is welcome at both places…together at the same time.
Finally, as I move through the Newcastle Deanery on a daily basis I am privileged to witness so much community building which brings great joy to my days. This week’s mission for us all is to extend an invitation to someone, perhaps on the fringe, or pray for those in most need or visit a school and witness a ‘lived faith’. Shine your light.