TUESDAYS WITH TERESA: Reflection on “Document for the Continental Stage”

This week I had been contemplating what I might share with you, when I came across this Prayer for our Community, in an email from Churches Together SA (South Australia). I wanted to share this with you because, continuing to be confronted by so much, we can feel paralysed, and prayer invites us into a different space of solidarity.

Prayer for our Community

As a community, let us pray for those who have been affected by storms, floods, and disasters across our country.

We pray for:

Towns and communities

Family and loved ones of those who have died

Local volunteers, and those who have travelled to areas to assist Emergency services and First Responders

Medical professionals across our GP clinics, regional Hospitals and Health Clinics, and aged care facilities

Local leaders and professionals who are making key decisions

Disaster and Recovery chaplains who are ministering across all people,
animals, birdlife, fauna and flora

Those who are holidaying in the areas, and are now caught up in unexpected circumstances

Professionals who are planning and rebuilding infrastructure which has been damaged, or completely destroyed

Local businesses who have opened their arms to those who are devastated, offering simple meals, clothing, and attending to other physical needs

Local churches for who they themselves may be affected, but who are following God's call to love their neighbours unconditionally

Hope for the future as we witness the effects of climate change and human activity

"By the tender compassion of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:78-79)

May peace prevail

You may recall that I shared with you, in last week’s message, our being invited to take part in the Reflection for the Document for the Continental Stage (DCS). Further down in this piece and in our Bulletin Notices there is an invitation for you to attend one of two online opportunities to gather and provide your reflection on the Working Document for the Continental Stage. Alternately, you may receive an invitation to take part in a parish conversation about this document. I encourage you to download this document, which may take two hours to read and reflect on. Your shared thoughts will be appreciated by the Bishops of Australia and by those who will be collating the Instrumentum Laboris, which will be released in June 2023.

I found the section, Towards a missionary synodal Church, to be very realistic and honest. It seems that our struggles to be a synodal church are felt globally. I note that this weekend, the Feast of Christ the King, marks the third anniversary of our own First Session of Synod in 2019. At that time, the theme chosen for our synod was Building the Kingdom of God Together.

The Feast of Christ the King reminds us of making God’s Kingdom real in our present context. The following paragraph from the Working Document for the Continental Stage speaks about being a church that goes out on mission, rather than being a Church of maintenance:

In the reports, the People of God express a desire to be less a Church of maintenance and conservation and more a Church that goes out in mission. A connection emerges between deepening communion through synodality on the one hand and strengthening mission on the other: being synodal leads into renewed mission. As the Spanish report says: “we believe that communion must lead us to a permanent state of mission: meeting and listening to each other, dialogue, reflection, discernment together are all actions with positive effects in themselves, but they are not understandable if they are not directed at pushing us to go beyond ourselves and our communities of reference in order to carry out the mission entrusted to us as Church.” (n99)

The DCS is trying to invite us on the synodal journey of conversion and reform. In Maitland-Newcastle, we have been on such a journey since our 1992/93 Synod -thirty years of journeying, walking with each other, listening, dialoguing, and participating in mission.

We have called the following sessions Coffee Conversations, even though they are online, to align them with our Plenary Council Coffee Conversations.

Session One:    Monday, 28 November       10 am – 12 noon  

Session Two:    Wednesday, 30 November 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm

Registration and additional information can be found here. Download the DCS and access the submission portal at: www.catholic.org.au/synodalchurch

I remind you that the title of the document, Enlarge the space of your tent, comes from Isaiah 54:2, Enlarge the space of your tent, spread out your tent cloths unsparingly, lengthen your ropes and make firm your pegs.

We are being invited to re-imagine how our faith in Jesus Christ will inspire others to embrace an encounter with the person of Jesus Christ. For those of us who gathered last week for the diocesan Reflection Day, there is great hope in using spiritual conversations as the tool of accompaniment and discernment. I think embracing our Spiritual Foundations, as a way of life, is a good tool to assist us in the unfolding of being a synodal people of God.

The beginning of this weekend’s reading from the letter of St Paul to the Colossians (1:12-20) provides us with great hope:

He has taken us into the kingdom of his beloved Son.

We give thanks to the Father who has made it possible for you to join the saints and with them to inherit the light.

Because that is what he has done: he has taken us out of the power of darkness and created a place for us in the kingdom of the Son that he loves, and in him, we gain our freedom, the forgiveness of our sins.

We have inherited this Kingdom, a Kingdom reflected in Sunday’s Preface:

….For you anointed your Only Begotten Son,
our Lord Jesus Christ, with the oil of gladness
as eternal Priest and King of all creation,
so that, by offering himself on the altar of the Cross
as a spotless sacrifice to bring us peace,
he might accomplish the mysteries of human redemption
and, making all created things subject to his rule,
he might present to the immensity of your majesty
an eternal and universal kingdom,
a kingdom of truth and life,
a kingdom of holiness and grace,
a kingdom of justice, love and peace……

This is the Kingdom we pray for each time we pray the Our Father – thy Kingdom come.

Advent heralds for us a new liturgical year.

Photo: Adelaide Hills after the Storm on 12/11/2022 Credit: Alice Stephenson

Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

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