Archbishop John Dew
On Pentecost Sunday, I welcomed a large number of new Catholics to the wider family of the Archdiocese at a special ‘Welcome to New Catholics’ Mass, which was also the monthly Archdiocesan Youth Mass.
The Mass was led by the members of the Institute for World Evangelisation-ICPE Mission community from St Gerard’s, with wonderful music helping us to reflect on the gift of God’s spirit to us.
These new Catholics, from a number of different parishes, were baptized or received into the Church at Easter time.
Filled with the gifts of the Spirit, they are sent, like the apostles at the first Pentecost, to be messengers of God’s love and healing to the world. This naturally should remind us we are also all sent to do likewise.
It was a lively Mass, a key moment in the faith journey of these new Catholics. Their enthusiasm for the gospel and missionary joy was a gift they shared with each one of us.
They were a reminder to me that all we do is for the sake of the mission of the Church. We do this in many ways in our families and local communities, in our inter-personal relationships, in keeping an eye out for the person on the outer or who may be experiencing a time of special need.
Earlier this year, I visited all the pastoral areas of the Archdiocese, presenting a session on Understanding Church.
I heard many wonderful words and images that describe Church for those who took part, such as family, people of God, a faith community centered on Eucharist, a place of saints and sinners, committed to social justice, a pilgrim people, ministry and service to the wider community as ‘love manifest’.
Towards the end of each evening, participants were invited to look ahead to the coming six months: ‘What concrete action can you take in the next six months in your pastoral area to enhance or grow how we become Church, in the areas of ongoing faith formation, liturgy and prayer, service to others?’
The suggestions made were varied and creative and, in nearly all cases, achievable.
These included celebrating Eucharist together as a pastoral area, studying the words of Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium as a parish community, sending out snippets of catechesis with the parish bulletin, and bringing young parents with children together for faith sharing and mutual support.
Other ideas were to discover together the needy in our own community and look for ways to help, work with refugees or to reunite families, and strengthen local links with other churches.
We should also consider how to grow and use all personal skills and gifts to be of service to the parish, welcome new immigrants – inviting them to contribute to parish/pastoral area activities – and to include a prayer intention for vocations at every Sunday Mass.
In a way, this was the ‘homework’ people said they would undertake. Therefore, my question is ‘How is the homework going?’ Have you taken action on at least one of your own suggestions?
The various activities suggested are the key activities that will create and enliven our new parishes – prayer, formation, service. Some great pictures, stories and events reported in recent issues of Wel-Com show much is happening in the creation of new parishes.
I have spoken and written a great deal over the last 12 months about ‘re-imagining’. Re-imagining who we are called individually and collectively to be as a parish, is essential to the reorganisation of parishes across the Archdiocese.
Every single one of us needs to focus on who we are as a parish, as an active and aspirational faith community and why we commit ourselves to this stewardship way of life.
All our gifts and talents are at the service of the mission of parish, of the Archdiocese, of the Church, and to the world around us.
As new parishes come into being and as we all step out to meet the challenge of Pope Francis to ‘reach out to the edges’, we continue to ask ourselves, ‘What is the vision that calls us to more creatively re-imagine the Archdiocese into “a future full of hope”?’
Our life as parishes and as an Archdiocese is founded firmly on the Pentecost gift of an ever-deepening communion with God, of communion with one another as a parish community, and of living out that communion in service to those around us.
We need a vision, we need a dream; otherwise the coming together of parishes will become just another demanding task.
Unless a new vision calls us on, we run the danger of getting stuck in the practicalities of reorganisation, and overwhelmed by the complexities of buildings and finance.
The biblical wisdom, ‘Without a vision, the people perish’ (Proverbs 29:18) both encourages and challenges us to hold fast to the vision that will sustain us through the other issues and challenges we have to face at this time.
In the promulgation document of 31 October last year, I wrote, ‘Our parish communities are to be outward looking communities; a source of support and beacon of hope for those who struggle with life.’
We will never achieve that by ourselves.
But through the power of the Holy Spirit, who enlivened and energised the early Church we, together, will build our new parishes into places where the Reign of God is present and the ‘first fruits of God’s Kingdom are visibly seen.’
After all, as we were reminded on Pentecost Sunday by St Paul, in 1 Corinthians 12:13: ‘one Spirit was given to us all to drink’.