. I am responsible, with Bishop Bill, to ensure that the pastoral ministries outside these areas are addressed. Our five diocesan Councils ensure that most of these are identified and actioned.
During 2017 the Ecumenical and Interfaith Council has held conversations with people of other Christian variants and faith traditions to facilitate understanding. The Hunter Interfaith Network has provided opportunities for the people of the Abrahamic Faiths to support each other and to stand in solidarity around the belief that ‘faith matters’, particularly in a time of skepticism regarding faith and religion.
The Social Justice Council held a Forum to look at Hunter Youth Future Employment and the 2017-18 Social Justice Statement released by the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council invites us to consider Everyone’s Business: Developing an inclusive and sustainable economy. This council has highlighted supporting those struggling in the area of mental health. As part of the Hunter Ecumenical Social Justice Network, we took part in the Give Us a Sign Campaign focusing on Australia’s First Peoples. In May it was 50 years since the Referendum which voted to improve the services available to Indigenous Australians. The Social Justice League attempts to give a social justice platform to young adults.
Since the 1992/93 Diocesan Synod the importance of people being formed in their faith has been emphasised. This is the key task of the Adult Faith Formation Council, a role that until this year was shared with the Sisters of St Joseph and the Tenison Woods Education Centre (TWEC). In May, the work of TWEC was handed to the diocese in a ceremony acknowledging the dedication of the Sisters of St Joseph in forming people, individually and communally, for mission and ministry. Throughout the year we have been blessed to have great theologians share their expertise – Fr James McEvoy, Massimo Faggioli, Richard Gaillardetz and John May. Over 50 years since the Second Vatican Council, Catholicism as a way of life is still being revealed, particularly through the words and actions of Pope Francis.
Liturgy is a public action, a ritual action and a symbolic action. In the proclamation of the Word, God speaks to us; in the breaking of the bread, we recognise Christ. We participate by responding, singing, listening and gesturing. This understanding of sacred liturgy accounts for the work of the Liturgy Council across our diocese. This council looks at our many liturgical expressions and seeks to serve, form and prepare those who are engaged in bringing others to full participation in our church.
When one gathers with a group of committed Catholics, the greatest concern is the lack of young people present. The Diocesan Council for Ministry with Young People (DCMYP) meets monthly to foster and support a diocesan community that provides formation, faith-filled life experiences and evangelisation for young people. In October 2018, Pope Francis will hold a Youth Synod in Rome on Young People, The Faith, and Vocational Discernment. Our participation in this Synod process has involved about 800 young people participating in an online survey and a number attending Focus Groups, resulting in a diocesan report being compiled and sent to ACBC. A great deal of energy has gone into organising the Australian Catholic Youth Festival to be held in Sydney in December. The DCMYP continues to hold regular events – Pints with a Purpose, Seven at Sacred Heart, Be Grow Show Retreat and Praise and Worship events.
The Diocesan Pastoral Council has been engaged with Bishop Bill, seeking to discern the way forward for the diocese. There has been some discussion around a diocesan Synod.
Apart from the work of the Councils, those involved in Chaplaincies (clergy, CatholicCare, hospitals, prisons, port, university, aged care, armed services and industry) provide face-to-face encounters or spiritual accompaniment with those in the various settings.
This year we have also been blessed with the continuing ministry of Fr Richard Shortall sj as our Missionary of Mercy. He has presented Prayer in Everyday Life and Discernment in a number of parishes. Many have been renewed because of Fr Richard’s gentle, merciful presence.
Pope Francis reminds us in Evangelii Gaudium (n169) that we are in dire need of Christ’s closeness and his personal gaze. We must all be initiated into the art of accompaniment which fosters a proper disposition towards others so we “remove our sandals before the sacred ground of the other”. (Ex 3:5)