Last week was a ‘massive’ week, even for me, and I think for our diocese. I thought I would list for you the opportunities that were provided through the past week for many of those in leadership roles in the diocese, and for others who chose to connect with what was happening, especially in the way of formation.
I think these weekly messages provide me with a tool to keep you informed as to what is going on, and hopefully allow you to feel a sense of connection and hope. If I were to summarise this week of activities, I feel they were about looking for faith opportunities and seizing the day.
Sunday – Our two granddaughter’s First Holy Communion at the Sacred Heart Church, Clear Island Waters, part of Surfers Paradise Parish. It was a special Mass for the first communicants and their families. Afterwards, we went for a meal to the Broadbeach Tavern and the two girls proudly wore the rosary beads, which were presented to them by the parish, around their necks. During the afternoon, on two separate occasions, two elderly women approached the girls to ask if they had just made their First Holy Communion. Our girls were happy to engage with these women and both were thrilled to have connected with a part of their own faith stories. I must admit to feeling a deep sense of pride in being in a very public space celebrating a religious event, which other people noticed and shared.
Monday – Child Protection Training for volunteers. We have a moral and legal responsibility to obtain the knowledge and expectations, which form this training. Even though we find ourselves in a regulatory environment with associated policies and procedures and Codes of Conduct, I believe we need to be mindful of the values and behaviour of our culture, which forms our raison d'être and hence our way of living and being. I encourage each of you to look out for the opportunity to participate in this training.
Tuesday/Wednesday – Clergy Parish Lay Leaders Days, in which we looked at leadership, formation, training, supervision, reviews/evaluations, responsibility, accountability, self-awareness, self-care, spiritual, pastoral and personal support, and much more. Ongoing formation for everyone in ministry is essential, and once again I encourage you to look for opportunities for ongoing formation in your own faith and ministries.
Wednesday – Joyful Voices for Hope and Change with John Bell at the Adamstown Uniting Church. John is a resource worker with the Iona Community of Scotland. He spoke of our need to use the Arts – music, drama, poetry, storytelling – to rekindle the place of creative imagination in our faith journey as individuals and as a community. The Arts help us to engage with the heart of God. John made the statement that “we need this so as to reclaim the robust understanding of our faith, otherwise we remain impoverished.” This is similar to the frequent reminders from Pope Francis to be bold and courageous in our faith, with our faith and for our faith.
Thursday – Gathering of Priests, Parish Leaders and Principals of the Diocese. During this day, we were grouped in our ten diocesan regions to explore Servant Leadership with a view to seeking opportunities for enhancing the relationships between principals and their parish leaders. Goodwill and practical ideas emerged, along with a sense of hope that at least some of these ideas will be implemented.
This was followed by dinner with the ‘leaders’ of the Diocesan Council for Ministry with Young People (DCMYP), in reviewing the activities of this group e.g. Pints with Purpose, Sacred at Seven (Adoration), Spirituality in the Snow, Thread Days, YCS, Australian Catholic Youth Festival (December 2019 in Perth) etc.
Friday – The TWEC (Tenison Woods Education Community) dinner at which Sr Michele Connolly spoke on Does the New Testament speak to contemporary Australia? – One Woman’s View. As a scripture scholar, she spoke to this by breaking open Jesus in the scriptures and what it means for us to be people of hope because of the resurrection, doing this in the incarnational reality of life and survival. In partnering with Jesus, in having Jesus as our guide and companion (sharing his yoke) we do this meekly, gently and with compassion for the common good of humanity, especially when we live during empirical times in which people trust what can be measured. Much of what we hold to be true and real is intuitive and this is the gift, the gift of knowing the mystery that is being eroded and lost. In my words, we should be worried for humanity, because what makes us human is at risk of becoming extinct.
Saturday – the Diocesan Council of Ministry with Young People (DCMYP) Thread Day was held. This was a great and profound afternoon of deep faith sharing and exploring through the lens of See, Judge, Act. Samantha Hill, who facilitates this group, led us with grace, while for me the disappointment was the low numbers of people who take up this opportunity. It is open to all, and yet very few respond to the call to participate. I know that when we gather as a diocesan or parish community, the cry of the people is about the lack of young people who engage with our faith, and yet here is a golden opportunity for this engagement and support to be shown.
Sunday – Time to attend to household chores but also the time to celebrate the feast of the Ascension and the beginning of The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
I refer you to the resources for this week, which can be found here.
Each year this specific week of Prayer falls between the feast of the Ascension and Pentecost Sunday. However, this is not the only week we search for unity. Many of us in the diocese gather regularly with our fellow Christians, and also with people of other faith traditions to share as people of faith. We hope and pray together for full unity, which is Christ’s will.
This year the theme comes from Deuteronomy 16:18-20 – Justice and only justice you shall pursue.
I take this opportunity to share with you some of the material provided in the resources for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
Every year Christians across the world gather in prayer for growth in unity. We do this in a world where corruption, greed and injustice bring about inequality and division. Ours is a united prayer in a fractured world: this is powerful. However, as individual Christians and communities, we are often complicit with injustice, and yet we are called together to form a united witness for justice and to be a means of Christ’s healing grace for the brokenness of the world.
This year Indonesia has prepared the resources for this week of prayer. As a nation, Indonesia is founded on five principles called Pancasila, with the motto Bhineka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity). Across the diversity of ethnicity, language and religion, Indonesians have lived by the principle of gotong royong, which is to live in solidarity, and by collaboration. This means sharing in all aspects of life, work, grief and festivities, and regarding all Indonesians as brothers and sisters.
Christ's Church is called to be a foretaste of this kingdom. However, in our disunity we fall short. We fail to be the sign of God's love for his people. Just as injustice has widened the divisions that have riven Indonesian society, so injustice has also fed the divisions of the Church. We repent of the injustice that causes division, but as Christians we also believe in the power of Christ to forgive us and heal. And so, we find ourselves united under the cross of Christ, calling both for his grace to end injustice and for his mercy for the sins which have caused our division.
I am conscious that we end this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity with that great feast of Pentecost. On this day in the Australian Catholic Church, we should be provided with the themes from the Listening and Dialogue sessions for the 2020 Plenary Council. As we await their arrival, I remind each of you to continue to pray the Plenary Council prayer and to reflect on this part of scripture from Acts: 1-11 that was broken open on Sunday:
While meeting with them,
he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem,
but to wait for "the promise of the Father
about which you have heard me speak;
for John baptised with water,
but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit."
I remind you of the theme surrounding the Plenary Council process:
Listen to what the Spirit is saying
I hope that something in this message supports your listening to what the Spirit is saying!