Sydney’s newly appointed Auxiliary Bishop, Danny Meagher has told an online gathering of sacramental coordinators, that they are called to be the presence of Jesus in our parishes, fulfilling an evangelising mission which must engage not only children in their sacramental preparation, but parents as well.
Pope Francis appointed Fr Danny as the new Auxiliary Bishop on 18 November and his ordination will be held on 8 December, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, at St Mary’s Cathedral.
Currently the Administrator of All Hallows parish in Five Dock, Bishop-Elect Danny has dedicated many years of ministry to sacramental preparation, leading First Holy Communion and Confirmation programs in parishes and serving six years in sacramental preparation for priesthood as Rector of the Good Shepherd Seminary.
“… We are the Body of Christ and we are here to make Him present and there’s no more powerful way to make Him present than through the treasure of the sacraments”
Alongside the Director of the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation, Daniel Ang, Bishop-Elect Danny led an online retreat for sacramental coordinators on 20 November on the topic First Witnesses of the Faith to Children.
Bishop-Elect Danny told the gathering that one of the key challenges for sacramental coordinators was to structure their programs so that both parents and their children can both enter a closer encounter with Jesus alongside each other.
“Sacraments are about Jesus and so they should be spiritually potent. We must always remember that parents are the first teachers of their children and that the family is the basic building block of society”, he said.
“One of the dangers with sacramental programs in the parishes is that we can become over bureaucratic. We are shepherds like Jesus in our own parishes, so we have to be of service to our people as Jesus asked us. That’s our role: to be good shepherds, to show our people respect and love”.
“Your jobs in the Archdiocese are the most evangelical we have. The reach of the sacramental program is so wide- so many thousands of people willingly come to Church for their Reconciliation, Baptism, Holy Communion and Confirmation. We are the Body of Christ and we are here to make Him present and there’s no more powerful way to make Him present than through the treasure of the sacraments”.
Bishop-Elect Meagher urged the sacramental coordinators to ensure their programs were always structured around ensuring parents were actively involved alongside their children in preparing for the great sacraments of initiation including First Holy Communion and Confirmation.
“So on the level of faith, we can’t rely on the Catholic conveyor belt that brings forward children, just because they’ve been baptised, have Catholic parents, go to a Catholic school and assumes that they’re necessarily going to come out the other end as intentional disciples of Jesus Christ.”
“Parents love their children more than anyone else and parents are the universe for their children. If your children see you praying at home, they will pray as mum and dad pray. Parents have a duty then to let their children know God. It’s a worry for parents to say: ‘I’ll let my children grow up and decide for themselves’. That’s wrong! The most important thing in the world is to know God and it’s the reality that we live”.
The Director of the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation, Daniel Ang, addressed the same gathering on the topic Evangelisers in the Sacraments of Faith.
Mr Ang told the sacramental coordinators that in order to help nurture the faith, the sacraments have to be provided in a parish culture that evangelises and parents play a pivotal role in that.
“We know as people in ministry that parents set the glass ceiling of religious commitment for their children. Children rarely rise above the ceiling set by their parents. So when you look at the child and want them to grow, look at their parents”, he said.
“When children have no explicit personal attachment, the reality is that they’re likely to grow up into adults who have no personal attachment to Jesus, unless that process is introduced into their life through a process of evangelisation”.
“We do know though that where parents are with Christ, it is more likely that their children will also be with Christ.”
“So on the level of faith, we can’t rely on the Catholic conveyor belt that brings forward children, just because they’ve been baptised, have Catholic parents, go to a Catholic school and assumes that they’re necessarily going to come out the other end as intentional disciples of Jesus Christ”, he said.
Mr Ang said the focus on evangelisation may be seen as counter-cultural.
”Encourage the mothers and fathers to take some time to talk about their life of faith with their children. The one thing Catholics often don’t do is talk about their relationship with God, except in the confessional or in spiritual direction. Anyone who speaks about Jesus can be seen either as Protestant or a little bit too enthusiastic about their faith or both. However, we do know though that where parents are with Christ is likely where their children will also be with Christ”.