Archbishop John Dew
Pentecost is sometimes known as ‘the birthday of the Church’ – a wonderful day when we remember that the Spirit of God that fills the whole of creation came to those first apostles in the Upper Room and fired them for mission.
As we reflect on our own mission it might be time to light some ‘birthday’ candles – five, to be precise. This coming Pentecost Sunday (June 12) will be the fifth anniversary of the 2006 Synod. Perhaps we can recall, as we do on our birthdays, the things that have happened.
• Celebrating God in our lives
• Sharing our living faith
• Growing in Community
• Working for justice and peace
These are all phrases on the archdiocesan Mission Statement from the 1988 synod. Twenty-three years later we are still building on that Mission Statement.
Celebrating God in our lives
This was the basis of the future statements of Synod 2006. Yes, we have celebrated in liturgy, prayer and spirituality and through the year of St Paul, the bicentenary of the birth of our founding Bishop Philippe Viard and the canonisation of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop. An archdiocesan liturgy committee is working with parishes and pastoral areas. We are praying the new words of the Mass that have helped us become ‘One Body, one Spirit in Christ’. Te Reo is being used more widely in parish liturgies. As well as these highlights, there is the quiet, largely unsung, daily prayer and their generous lives of service of thousands of parishioners and that of those who suffer in hospital, hospice and homes.
Sharing our living faith
In 2006 we wanted to become ‘reflective, Spirit-filled people, confident in the knowledge of our own faith, outward-looking and mission-oriented, interacting, learning and sharing with people of all beliefs, ages and cultures’.
Lay leaders are in formation for parish pastoral ministries, the former Wellington Catholic Education Centre has become the Catholic Institute of Aotearoa New Zealand which includes the Nathaniel Bioethics Centre and the National Centre for Religious Studies. New educational programmes are offered through Archdiocesan Pastoral Services for marriage preparation and family ministry, bereavement ministry, and liturgy, Side-by-Side Mentoring and Seasons for Growth. Many make a retreat in daily life with the Cenacle retreat team each year.
Growing in community
‘Our waka has always rested on a well of living water’. We have drawn on that living water in building community. The Waitangi Day Mass at St Mary of the Angels has become an archdiocesan event to celebrate cultural diversity through our commitment to the bicultural partnership in the Treaty. This diversity is also reflected in the gift of international priests who have come to serve in the archdiocese.
Difficult moments of transition have called for a deeper commitment to healing, forgiveness and collaboration. The archdiocese came alive in a new way in preparation for World Youth Day in Sydney in 2008 and the Days in the Diocese when we hosted so many international pilgrims en route to Sydney.
‘Sundays with the Bishop’ in 2009 and 2010 gave me a new opportunity to teach and help build community in parishes. The response to the new levy system of parish financial support of the archdiocese has been generously accepted for the common good.
Working for justice and peace
The synod social justice workshop challenged us to see social justice as the responsibility of each one, working together for social change. Education in Catholic Social Teaching has been offered through the Catholic Institute of Aotearoa New Zealand in face-to-face courses and distance learning; shorter programmes are offered in parishes and pastoral areas which have a focus on action responding to local social justice questions. Awakening the Dreamer workshops have translated into action.
A key recommendation of the synod to have a social justice gathering was realised in the February 2011 Hui at Bishop Viard College with nearly 300 participants from all over the archdiocese.
Synod achievements have been well recorded in Wel-com, but we are still becoming. When we look through the synod document, (as I hope you will in preparation for this fifth anniversary) we can thank God for the gift of the Holy Spirit who has been calling us on. But the voyage ahead is long, and there are a few reefs we do not yet know how to navigate.
To help us do this, and to continue the energy of the synod, we have set out on a path of stewardship.
In last month’s Wel-com I outlined the key elements of stewardship as we would like to live it in the archdiocese. Each one is invited to be a steward who
• receives God’s gifts gratefully,
• cherishes and tends them in a responsible and accountable manner,
• shares them with others in justice and love, and
• returns them with increase to the Lord. (US Catholic Bishops, 1993)
Which of these words speaks to your journey at this time – receives, cherishes, tends, shares?
This Easter I find that the word ‘cherishes’ holds my attention. I know the gift of leadership I have received from God in my life as priest and bishop renewed at the Chrism Mass in Holy Week with the priests of the archdiocese. Sometimes the service of authority seems a burden, but I can also choose to cherish it, to accept it from God with deeper gratitude, to share it more generously with others. I can in all serenity leave ‘the increase to the Lord’. (cf 1 Corinthians 3:7)
I wrote last month that ‘the heart of this stewardship way of life centred on the person of Jesus Christ lies in prayer’. During Lent we were invited to ‘pay closer attention to the Word of God’. We were invited to do this alone and with our communities. Can we continue this practice daily?
The Stewardship Institute in August will begin with a day of prayer in the cathedral on Friday August 26. I invite you all to be part of this day, even if only for a short visit to the Blessed Sacrament. When we pray, when we respond to the invitation of Jesus to ‘remain in my Love’, we will go forth from him in his power and with his grace, we will continue to ‘become’ alive with the power of the Spirit of Pentecost.