Archbishop John Dew
Since early May many, if not most, people in the archdiocese have responded to my invitation to discuss the future of the archdiocese. I am grateful to all parishioners, lay pastoral leaders and clergy who have generously given their energy to reimagining the archdiocese in a consultation process using the document A Future Full of Hope.
Submissions from pastoral areas and parishes were due at the end of last month, after Wel-Com went to print. I do not know what has been proposed yet, but from what I have heard, I am thrilled that so many people have seen this consultation as an opportunity to grasp a new understanding of the mission of the Church.
People have seized this chance to ask questions that enable each parish community to dream of a new and vital Church, to embrace new opportunities to evangelise and re-evangelise, to re-commit themselves to realising the kingdom of God more fully. They have talked about the diocesan commitment to the fact that we are God’s priestly people who share a responsibility to witness to God’s unfailing love and to bring Christ’s healing presence into our needy world.
Change is unsettling under any circumstances, but even more so when it affects our faith and spiritual home, the parish. I sometimes wish that we did not have to ask these hard questions and make such changes.But, as I looked across the archdiocese, I could see that some change was inevitable and we needed to start now, for all the reasons you know:
- limited financial resources
- huge insurance premiums
- the uncertain future of some parish buildings, and
- fewer clergy.
If we approach planning and change from a negative standpoint, our proposed solutions could be reactive and focused on the present, whereas approaching the future based on faith, vision and mission will reveal wonderful new possibilities. As together we face both opportunities and challenges, we are asked to be open to the spirit of God. It is not easy for the spirit to work with illusion and elusion, but God revels in reality. Cardinal John Henry Newman once said, ‘In a higher world it is otherwise, but here, to live is to change, to be perfect is to have changed often.’
Therefore, as we look at our, as yet uncertain future, let us remember that God is with us. As Jesus said in John 14: ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled, trust in God still and trust in me’.
Our reality is that we are the people of God who, through baptism, are called to be Church, to witness to the presence of Jesus in our midst and to live the radical call to discipleship that the gospel demands. Therefore ask yourself the question: What do I need to do today to create the condition for the possibility of belief and witness for myself and for those who will come after me?
Remember, we face a future full of hope. Be not afraid.