The legalistic approach to Church has been well and truly debunked; now we see the great need to make the gospel of Jesus the focus for the People of God. Witness the new approach of Pope Francis, calling for a Year of Mercy. Recently when one of our parishioners was visiting relatives, his alcoholic nephew came up and thanked his uncle for not judging him – what a blessing for this parishioner that he had been able to ‘know’ that! The Holy Spirit is gently showing us a new way of being church – a church which is able to ‘breathe’ and ’live’.
The combined pastoral area of Dungog, Clarence Town and Gresford is territorially extensive but sparse in population. On average Sunday Mass attendance is a mere 50, 15, 18 respectively in the three churches. The area was without a resident parish priest for seven years. It has had a chequered history and the Mass-going population is largely aged. In many ways it is unique! Holy Hour each week is attended by the priest and two others usually: on a good day the attendance climbs to four! The parish priest was asked to visit an elderly, sick man: when Father rang and proposed a visit the next day, the man answered “Why?” The link has been broken, common Catholic practices are no longer "common", and nothing has replaced them.
Weekday Mass in the three churches is poorly attended, three or four at the most. This year only one child completed the sacraments of initiation from the whole pastoral area. The link has been broken. So the obvious question is – how to restore the link? What will work?
Adult Faith Education Sessions
In the last 12 months on average about 12 people have attended sessions on ‘Catholicism’ a twelve-part series on what we believe as Catholic Christians; the DVD series The Big Picture, a study of the scriptures, and another series “Life to the Full’.
In Dungog and Gresford there has been a heartening response to the return of the House Masses. The picture depicts a recent house Mass in Gresford. Dungog also faithfully celebrates a house Mass once a month. Apart from the obvious benefit of a homely, intimate Mass’, it is also a God-given opportunity to sit around afterwards with a cuppa and share our faith and our lives.
Ministry to the Sick and Elderly
The barometer of a healthy community is how we take care of the special needs of our sick and elderly parishioners. We now have a group of ladies who take the Eucharist to those who are ‘at home’ or in the nursing home.
So yes, there are new green shoots, parishioners exercising their baptismal call to reach out and bring Christ to others. May the Holy Spirit abundantly bless these new shoots.