Spirit states its case

Satellite navigation was not the only force guiding Toronto’s new Parish Leader, Christopher Voigt, on his journey to Lake Macquarie. There was something far more powerful at play – the Holy Spirit.

Christopher had been working in a pastoral role in Brisbane for the past three years and was looking to take a step up in leadership and follow God’s call.

“The Spirit was at work moving me to look for what the next step was that God was leading us to,” Christopher said. “It just so happened that this position came up, and I had this moment of realisation that this is definitely where God wants us.”

Moving a family of six children interstate is no easy feat even during the best of times, but the Voigt family had the added complexity of doing so during the middle of NSW’s lockdown.

“Coming from Queensland, our children were pretty much able to do what they like, so walking into lockdown for about 10 weeks before they could go anywhere, that’s certainly a challenge,” he said. “But we’re all settling in well. The parish has been very welcoming.”

Serving God in an active way in the Church has always been close to Christopher’s heart, and from a young age he had dreams of being a missionary overseas. However, over time, he realised his mission was on a more local level and to reach out to people who were disconnected from the Church.

“I’m really excited about where God may be leading us and being open to viewing the Church through different eyes,” Christopher said. “We can’t continue doing things as we’ve always done them. “Obviously, there is a disconnect between where the Church is at the moment and where the world is. Somehow we need to listen to the Holy Spirit about how God wants us to reach and engage with these people in faith so they can encounter Christ.”

Christopher believes the Parish Leader role presents a unique opportunity to collaborate with the community in ways that are often not possible in the context of traditional leadership models. Through this collaboration, he hopes to empower the community to live out their baptismal call as missionary disciples and use their God-given gifts and talents.

One of his main goals as Parish Leader is to continue shifting from being a parish in maintenance, to a parish focused on mission that is growing and engaging with young people.

“The key with young people is to be real with them – not to have a pre-conceived idea of what you expect of them, but to reach out and journey with them, build relationships and listen to where they’re at,” Christopher said.

“There’s such a rich spirituality in young people. It’s easy to look at how we don’t have a lot of young people coming to Mass or engaging with the Church in that traditional way. The benchmark has often been seen as, ‘how many people do we have on the pew?’ Well, it’s not a good reflection of where they’re at, because the faith is alive and strong in young people’s hearts.”

Christopher said he would be serving the Toronto parish as long as God needs him.

“I’ve often had communities we’ve been a part of say to us, ‘how long will you be here?’, and I’ve always said, ‘I’m here as long as God needs us’.

“Whether it’s 10 years, 20 years, or the rest of our lives, that’s entirely up to God.”

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