WelCom August 2021
Pope Francis is calling for a church of missionary disciples. On Friday 18 and Saturday 19 June 2021, clergy, diocesan staff and 40 lay leaders from around the Palmerston North Diocese, gathered for this year’s Pastoral Day programme to explore what this call means.
Pastoral Days have been run in the Diocese over the past few years for people in leadership or employment roles across the diocese, parishes and schools. For the first time volunteer lay leaders, nominated by their parish priests, attended part of the programme. The goal was to enable them to come together to discover more about their leadership roles in their local communities and how to respond to the commission ‘to go and make disciples’.
A focus throughout the two-day programme was on ‘Alpha’, a tool used around the world and in parts of the diocese to help form missionary disciples for evangelisation.
The Pastoral Day programme began on the Friday morning, with a presentation to the priests and diocesan staff gathered, about the background and history of where the Church has been on mission. There was also an overview by Fr Marcus Francis, parish priest of the Catholic Parish of Hastings, about Pope Francis’ process for forming missionary disciples. Isabella McCafferty spoke about how some dioceses around the world have been responding to the Pope’s call and on being a synodal church. Group discussions followed the presentations.
During the Friday afternoon session Fr Simon Story, parish priest, and Fr Trung Nguyen, assistant priest, of the Catholic Parish of Hastings, spoke about their shared experiences of Alpha in a local context.
On Friday evening, the lay leaders were formally welcomed to the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, followed by Mass. The Pastoral Day programme then continued to explore mission and enabled the group to experience some key elements of an Alpha programme with hospitality, videos and discussions.
On Saturday morning, the Alpha tool was further explored by lay leaders implementing it in their parishes. Sean and Naomi Bell of the Catholic Parish of Hastings compared the Church to a vineyard and how Alpha helps communities bear fruit. Albert and Christina Chow of the Catholic Parish of New Plymouth described how they lead Alpha in their community.
Participants discussed what they had experienced and heard at Pastoral Day 2021 and how that might impact their local communities when they returned.