A Message from Teresa Brierley, Vice Chancellor Pastoral Ministries

One cannot help but notice the many church buildings which form part of our landscape, either for worship, education or community services.

Our society would be the lesser if those who work or minister from these locations no longer provided such services of pastoral care, rituals, teaching or outreach. Each local community must have people in it who are socially and spiritually responsible for the well-being of those who live in that place, the place they call home.

For centuries the Catholic Church has relied upon the parish to be the eyes, ears, hands, feet and heart of the community in which it finds itself. In 2013, Pope Francis wrote the following about parishes in Evangelii Gaudium (n.28):

The parish is not an outdated institution; precisely because it possesses great flexibility, it can assume quite different contours depending on the openness and missionary creativity of the pastor and the community. While certainly not the only institution which evangelizes, if the parish proves capable of self-renewal and constant adaptivity, it continues to be “the Church living in the midst of the homes of her sons and daughters”. This presumes that it really is in contact with the homes and the lives of its people, and does not become a useless structure out of touch with people or a selfabsorbed group made up of a chosen few.

The parish is the presence of the Church in a given territory, an environment for hearing God’s word, for growth in the Christian life, for dialogue, proclamation, charitable outreach, worship and celebration. In all its activities the parish encourages and trains its members to be evangelizers. It is a community of communities, a sanctuary where the thirsty come to drink in the midst of their journey, and a centre of constant missionary outreach. We must admit, though, that the call to review and renew our parishes has not yet sufficed to bring them nearer to people, to make them environments of living communion and participation, and to make them completely mission-oriented.

Our diocesan services exist to assist in making real the Pope’s vision of a parish which serves the local community. The question that is being asked by the Plenary Council – What do you think God is asking of us in Australia at this time? – requires some big picture responses but it will be at the parish level that renewal takes place. Our Diocese will use the consultative process of preparing for the Plenary Council for our own 2019 Diocesan Synod.

The purpose of the newly formed Council for Mission, which is the key advisory strategic group in the diocese to the Bishop, is to provide the prophetic voice of the Spirit and a broader vision, so God’s mission is revealed and lived out actively within and outside the local church. A representative group have been invited to draw on their experiences and wisdom to ignite and reenergise our direction forward.

At the diocesan level, pastoral ministries give voice to ecumenical and interfaith initiatives, social justice networks, ministering to and with young people, faith formation opportunities and resourcing communities liturgically. Chaplain ministers are present in our hospitals, gaols, at the port, in sport, in industry, in the armed services, at the university and within CatholicCare. We provide support to those who minister to

children in our parishes and relationship education to those exploring marriage, while also providing grief and loss programs, and Family Ministry Co-ordinators seek to enhance the building of relationships within parishes and their schools.

We also connect with other Catholic organsiations who serve the community locally, nationally and globally such as Caritas, Catholic Mission, Calvary Mater Hospital, St Vincent de Paul, Catholic Healthcare, Catholic Women’s League, Council for Australian Catholic Women, Cursillo etc.

Our baptismal response is to go, make, baptise and teach, given as the great commission in the Gospel of Matthew (28:18 – 20):

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

Teresa Brierley is the Vice Chancellor Pastoral Ministries of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.