31 October 2013
Archbishop John A Dew
Hundreds of people have taken part in discussions and consultations relating to the document I published in May, A Future Full of Hope. The responses bear the results of deep reflection and fervent prayer, for which I am very grateful. It is very clear that the discussions were accompanied by a sense of excitement and with great energy and passion, which are wonderful gifts to bring to the life of the Church.
This is not an easy time for the archdiocese. We face unprecedented challenges. We could ignore them and refuse to change, but change is in the very nature of things. Not to change is to stagnate and die. What helps us, of course, is that we know God is with us.
On 24 September, during morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis explained why God accompanies us: ‘Be it in hard times, or in beautiful times, one thing is always certain: the Lord is there. He will never abandon his flock! Because the Lord, on the day of the sin, the first sin, made a decision, he made a choice: to make a history with his people. God, who has no history because he is eternal, desired to make history by walking alongside his people. But even more than that, he decided to become one of us and, as one of us, to walk with us through Jesus.’
The Pope then invited the people attending Mass to let God write the history of each person. I invite you to do the same.
Let God write your history, your personal history, and the history of the parish you are proud to call ‘home’. Don’t be afraid of the change which must happen if our Church is to grow and flourish; don’t be afraid to embrace the opportunities that will create something new and wonderful of our Church in Aotearoa New Zealand.
It is obvious you want the best for our archdiocese; you also sense the hopefulness sparked by the first seven months of Pope Francis. We need to build on that and, too, on the strong foundations on which our local church stands. I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the bishops who have preceded me in leadership among you, and to the priests and people for their commitment to serve since our formation 163 years ago.
Our parishes are always about the mission of the Church; that is what they exist for. Therefore, in moving forward it is necessary to focus on our Mission Statement:
We the Catholic People of the Archdiocese of Wellington, challenged to follow Christ, are called to proclaim the Kingdom of God, by
- Celebrating God in our lives
- Sharing our Living Faith
- Growing in Community
- Working for Justice and Peace
Within that context we can see:
- The challenge this year to reach out to the margins, the frontiers, the edges of society. So, our reshaping will include a commitment to be at the service of the world.
- Our call is to be people of prayer. Individually and as communities, in formal liturgical settings, in families, schools, parish and diocesan committees, in all our organisations, prayer is to be the basis of everything we do.
- We are to be ‘formed’ by the Word of God, allowing this Word to both inspire and disturb us. We must make a particular pastoral commitment to ensure the centrality of the Word of God in the Church’s life and to let ‘the Bible inspire all pastoral work’ (Dei Verbum 24, Verbum Domini 73). Commitment to the Word will encourage communities of hospitality, giving welcome and acceptance to all.
- We are called to ‘life-long formation’ in our faith. Many, many submissions expressed a deep desire for ongoing education in faith to assist greater understanding and participation.
- Our parish communities are to be outward looking communities; a source of support and a beacon of hope for those who struggle with life. In this we will remember we have been entrusted with the service of healing and reconciliation. By growing in holiness we will offer a reflection of the face of Christ whose healing touch is our model (Novo Millennio Ineunte #7).
- We are to live every day as disciples of Jesus, making stewardship our special focus. Acknowledging that all we have and are comes from God, making us caretakers of wonderful gifts, we will show our gratitude by generously sharing in prayer and action.
It is only when we remember and celebrate who we are before God that our parishes will be true models of Christian living. If you find it difficult to think of new parishes and are challenged by the changes we have to face, please return to the words of Pope John Paul II when he spoke of the wonder of the Trinity dwelling in us and of the light of the Trinity shining on the faces of our brothers and sisters (see Novo Millenio Inuente #43.
When I published the document A Future Full of Hope I put forward proposals for you to think about and also said that if you had better ideas to write and tell me. I have now reviewed the hundreds of suggestions. Not all of them focused on the future, not all focused on the common good of the archdiocese but instead on a particular parish. Some simply wanted to retain the status quo. Due to rapidly changing demography and ethnic diversity, a lack of financial and personnel resources, and building code issues, I have to make decisions for the mission of the Church, knowing they will not please everyone. This is a responsibility I cannot avoid. Change is inevitable.
Please continue your prayers, individually and in your parish Masses and all other gatherings for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Above all remember that, as Pope Francis said in his homily for 24 September, 2013, ‘God, who has no history because he is eternal, desired to make history by walking alongside his people. But even more than that, he decided to become one of us and, as one of us, to walk with us through Jesus.’
It is now our time to let God take up his pen and write again our personal history and that of our parishes.
With deep personal gratitude, good wishes, every blessing, and my prayers for you all.