Archbishop John Dew
With the words of St Teresa of Avila, ‘Since the greatness of God is without limits, his works are, too. Who will finish telling of his mercies and grandeurs?’ Fr Alan Roberts led the Council of Priests through an exercise of gratefulness for the year that is fast drawing to a close.
At our final meeting for the year last month, we took time together to look back over the year to recall ‘What has happened this year that calls for gratitude’. I found this a most helpful exercise as I listened attentively to the priests share the joys and generosity of parishioners who live their faith day by day. They spoke of the courage of many in the face of bereavement and loss, of the strength drawn from a sabbatical year and of the surprise that comes when we open ourselves to the unexpected.
We were invited to look back in gratitude for things that happened –
• In our parishes
• In the archdiocese
• For me personally
As another year ends, I invite you to do the same; however, I would like to add:
• In our families
• In our schools
• In our chaplaincies and voluntary bodies.
I hope you will take time, even in these busy days before Christmas to listen to the call to gratitude in your life – this could be a real Advent moment.
In a second phase of reflection, the members of the Council of Priests recalled the challenge of situations they felt they had not handled well and others they found difficult but did cope well with.
Success or failure are not the measure of our pastoral commitments, but rather, the ability to get up and keep going even when the brow of one hill hides another, even steeper, slope.
We ended with the prayer, ‘Help us to trust in all our difficulties. Never let us lose sight of your presence and your continued work.’
The Council of Priests, chaired by Fr Bill Warwick, meets five times a year. Its role is to help and advise me in my pastoral and administrative duties. The priests bring their pastoral experience and concerns to the meetings. Once a year they meet with the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council and the Board of Administration to share common concerns and projects for the future.
The meetings start with an extended time of prayer and reflection, followed by my briefing on key events in the archdiocese and questions I ask their advice on.
Looking through the last year’s minutes, I see a commitment to the stewardship vision of the archdiocese, discussions on the formation of priests new to the archdiocese, pastoral care of sick and retired priests, liturgy and vocation promotion, planning for clergy assemblies and retreat days and questions around schools and parish properties.
Occasionally we have a guest speaker, as we did in October: John Kleinsman of The Nathaniel Bioethics Centre spoke about recent developments in the euthanasia debate in New Zealand and pastoral support for those approaching death and for their families.
I can look back over this year in gratitude for the work of this council, and for the prayerful and practical support they are to me.
This exercise helped me to see with gratitude the many good things which have happened in the archdiocese over the past year. I suggest that this may be a helpful exercise for individuals – a way of trying to recognise where you have or have not been aware of God’s presence.
It is a bit like the kind of examen we may do at the end of the day as we look back on what we are grateful for and what we regret – the ‘we’ moments and the ‘me’ moments. This is a good way to prepare for Christmas and for another year.
Our final challenge at the Council of Priests meeting was:
• Do I still have vision?
• Do I still believe?
• Do I still love?
Again, you might ponder these questions.
I found the answer to those questions in our time of reflection and in the prayer we finished with: ‘Help us to realise that as your disciples we are called to wash the feet of one another.
Fill us with a genuine love for each other that we might work together in harmony for the sake of your reign.’
I take this opportunity to wish all Wel-com readers every blessing for Christmas and for the New Year.