While changes in personnel and structures within the broad sweep of the Diocesan Curia were challenging, the one thing that hasn’t changed – and should never change – is the commitment that we all have to the mission that Jesus entrusts to us.
Whether we are parishioners or employees, whether we are involved in education, social services or pastoral ministries, whether we are clergy or lay, the one thing that should guide us is the recognition that as Church we are called to do one thing and one thing alone:
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. (Mt 28:19)
That one command from Jesus to the disciples at the end of Matthew’s Gospel is as imperative today as it was when first spoken. It is at the heart of all that we are and all that we do, today as much as in days past.
We haven’t always lived up to that command. We have at times gotten it very, very wrong. But it remains the one thing we are called to and we are constantly required to discern how best we, the Church, can do that in the here and now, in this time and place. That process of discernment requires us to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit as we look to the future, being open to the possibility that the way things were once done might not be the way they will be done tomorrow or next year.
What remains important is the mission of the Church and only the mission of the Church. Everything else must serve the mission because that is the nature of the Church in the world.
Over 50 years ago, the bishops of the Church assembled for the Second Vatican Council and made this orientation very clear as they wrote in the Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World:
Inspired by no earthly ambition, the Church seeks but a solitary goal: to carry forward the work of Christ under the lead of the befriending Spirit. And Christ entered this world to give witness to the truth, to rescue and not to sit in judgement, to serve and not to be served. (Gaudium et Spes, n.3)
And so we, the Church of MaitlandNewcastle, engage in early childhood, primary and secondary education. We respond to social needs and offer services to meet those needs. We evangelise and witness to our faith through innumerable initiatives of our parishes.
And we do all of that, and everything else, because we are Catholic, because we are Church.
Over the coming years, through the opportunities presented by the National Plenary Council and our own Diocesan Synod, the Church of Maitland-Newcastle and the broader Church in Australia will have the opportunity to take the time for deliberate discernment.
These opportunities to discern about how best we might respond to the call to ‘go and make disciples’ and respond to the needs of the world as Christ would respond are an opportunity not to be wasted. It will be exciting, it will be challenging, and it will require an openness to the possibility of more change for us the Church.
But most of all it will require all of us to commit ourselves again to the one thing that truly matters, the singular and indispensable mission of the Church.