Family Faith Forum 2016

Faith formation is often achieved through gently accompanying another on their journey. As parish communities we have many opportunities to walk with children, families, individuals and couples through significant times in their lives.

In this forum we shall examine the nature of accompaniment as experienced through baptism, school years, Sunday Mass and times of loss.

Following the success of the inaugural Family Faith Forum in 2015, this year's event will be held on Saturday 24 September, featuring a range of local speakers including keynote speaker, Pastoral Care Manager Calvary Mater Newcastle and Clinical Pastoral Educator Supervisor, April MacNeill.

Keynote: The Nature of Accompaniment by April MacNeill
In his Evangelii Gaudium Pope Francis invites us “to respect others, to heal wounds, to build bridges, to strengthen relationships and to ‘bear one another’s burdens’ (Gal 6:2). Yet it often requires more than a willing heart to companion another on a journey of transformation. Using a pastoral framework this is an opportunity to explore the nature of accompaniment. How and why do we choose to companion another? We will deliberate on the impact of this encounter with the “stranger” and how it may illuminate “the spark of divine light within each of us”.

Morning Workshop A: Companioning through Change, Loss and Grief by Benita Tait
Through the ‘art of accompaniment’ we honour the sacredness of people’s lives. Through the process of ‘keeping company’ and listening with an open heart as people share their story of change, loss and grief, we offer individuals and families the opportunity to be liberated from pain, to heal and to grow. The compassionate gaze of Christ that we reflect makes genuine spiritual encounters possible. This workshop will provide an overview of the Seasons for Growth ministry and develop the ways in which relationships and conversations enable those who are grieving to feel cared for, respected and valued.


Morning Workshop B: Baptism, First Steps in Faith by John Donnelly
Engage with those who prepare families for the sacrament of baptism to explore what opportunities exist for maintaining meaningful relationships with the parish community. We shall examine programs designed to prepare families for the sacrament of baptism and explore strategies for keeping the relationship with a family alive through the child’s faith journey. Practical resources will be shared and ways of using them will be discussed. Mindful of the range of family faith stories within our local communities, this workshop will take a diverse approach to accompanying families from the time of their child’s baptism until they enrol in school. Pope Francis’ words from The Joy of Love will inform this process.

Afternoon Workshop A: Accompanying children with words and music by Jennie Nolan & Shane Hyland
A workshop for those who minister to children in parishes. This workshop will provide practical advice and resources to enable full, conscious and active participation of both children and adults in the Sunday celebration of the eucharist. There will be an opportunity to sing along to contemporary songs that can be used both in schools and during Mass. Special attention will be given to the Directory for Masses with children, children’s liturgy of the word and music selection for Masses with children.


Afternoon Workshop B: Conversations about Catholics by Samantha Hill & Melissa Fenech
Conversations about Catholics is a program designed to assist parents with their own questions and uncertainties about Church, and in turn encourage and empower them in the faith formation of their children. It acknowledges and values how parents nurture their family, and gently brings people together by welcoming and connecting families to each other, to the wider community and to the Church. The workshop will introduce participants to the four-week program which is invitational and designed for small groups. It is hoped that the gifts of “Conversations about Catholics” can be shared by all interested in assisting others to grow in the knowledge of the Catholic Faith and its tradition.

WHEN: 9.30am – 4.00pm Saturday 24 September

WHERE: Toohey Room, Diocesan Offices, 841 Hunter Street, Newcastle West

RSVP: Registration is necessary for catering purposes and workshop selection by 21 September. Please phone 4979 1328 or email

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Geri Williams

Geri Williams is the Online Communications and Brand Officer for the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. She is also a regular writer for Aurora Magazine.