Archbishop’s column: Faith is God’s precious gift

Opinion Archbishop John Dew October 2013 As the Year of Faith draws to an end, Pope Francis has chosen ‘the precious gift of faith’ as the theme for his World…

Archbishop’s column: Faith is God’s precious gift Archdiocese of Wellington

Archbishop John Dew


Archbishop John Dew

October 2013

As the Year of Faith draws to an end, Pope Francis has chosen ‘the precious gift of faith’ as the theme for his World Mission Day message, on Sunday, 20 October.

The Pope reminds us that faith is a gift we cannot keep to ourselves … it is to be shared. ‘Each community is “mature” when it professes faith, celebrates it with joy during the liturgy, lives charity, proclaims the Word of God endlessly, taking it to the “peripheries” especially to those who have not yet had the opportunity to know Christ.’

Pope Francis could be writing directly to us in the Archdiocese of Wellington.

Over these past few weeks, I have been reading through submissions from every pastoral area, parish and individual, in response to A Future Full of Hope, the proposal document on the future of the archdiocese.

I have read so many stories of people sharing their conviction, as individuals and as communities, that their faith is truly God’s precious gift.

They want to celebrate this gift, live it, profess it and share it with others. They want to be fully involved in the mission of the Church, and the mission of the archdiocese.

Some of our priests who are working in pastoral area teams have written:

  • For the first time in my ministry I have the luxury of time to really focus on my Sunday homilies – it is such a gift.
  • I am not on my own with some of the bigger tasks. It is good to have the support of a whole team.
  • I am allowed so much more time to be a priest in a way that has never been possible before. I feel I am truly exercising my vocation.
  • I am so grateful to be ministering with a lay pastoral leader as, without her, I would have no option but to retire.

The vision of the Second Vatican Council 50 years ago was for a co-responsible church, in which clergy, laity and religious respect, call forth, and encourage the gift of each of the baptised.

In the submissions sent into me some lay people have this to say:

  • My vision has been widened and I am meeting people from other areas.
  • When we heard we were losing our priest we felt abandoned but now we have a lay pastoral leader and the support of a whole team of priests we have never been so well served!
  • I love seeing the priest and lay pastoral leader working together. They have a lovely relationship full of respect for each other. It is a visual model of both vocations.
  • I have a sense of extended community where I am still part and parcel of my own parish but a sense of being on really good terms with the neighbours.
  • We love having a change of priest in the pulpit.

Pope Francis continues his World Mission Day message with an analysis of the crisis of faith that touches various sectors of existence, such as the economy, finance, food security, the environment, the meaning of life and finding the path to a stable peace.

But his conviction also shines through in this complex situation: ‘it is necessary to proclaim the Gospel of Christ, a message of hope, reconciliation, communion, of God’s closeness, his mercy, his salvation and the power of God’s love to overcome evil and guide us on the path of goodness’.

Pope Francis ends his message with a prayer of Pope Paul VI in his letter on mission, Evangelii Nuntiandi (1975): ‘Thus will we, as ministers and missionaries of the Gospel, experience “the delightful and comforting joy of evangelising”.’

This gift of the ‘joy in evangelising’ is my hope and prayer for each of you as the Archdiocese of Wellington moves into a future full of hope.