Gosford goes on the front foot for faith

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St Patrick’s Parish at East Gosford launches their new initiative, the Domestic Church Movement program. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
St Patrick’s Parish at East Gosford launches their new initiative, the Domestic Church Movement program. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

An international program which aims to renew the way Catholics engage with their faith and connect beyond the parish church building has been launched on the NSW Central Coast.

In an Australian first, the Domestic Church Movement has been introduced at St Patrick’s Parish at East Gosford to evangelise families … arguably one of the biggest challenges facing the Church today.

One of the key documents of the Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium (“Light of the Nations”), describes the family as the ‘domestic Church’ because it is the first place where young, baptised Christians learn about their faith.

And to support the domestic church, this lay apostolate is helping married couples grow closer to God and each other while creating a Catholic environment for raising children.

“… the movement’s success is put down to its simplicity based on spiritual habits that don’t reinvent the wheel but focus on what’s already there.”

What makes the Domestic Church formation attractive is that it is not a novel approach to the faith or a new vision of Catholicism limited to a particular spirituality, but a way to access the treasures of the Church’s teachings on marriage, family life, prayer and the Sacraments, from the perspective of a spouse and parent.

Founded in Poland 50 years ago and now present in 30 countries world-wide, the movement’s success is put down to its simplicity based on spiritual habits that don’t reinvent the wheel but focus on what’s already there.

At the heart of the movement is what happens at home and supports parents wanting to reclaim the faith and formation of their families, often outsourced to schools and parishes.

Ready to lead: Justin and Ashleigh Donnelly, with 16-month-old Rosemary and St Patrick’s East Gosford parish Priest Fr Greg Skulski SDS. The Donnellys have signed up as part of the first group to be leaders of the Domestic Church Movement, a program aimed at renewing Catholic family life - and therefore the Church. Photo: ALphonsus Fo
Ready to lead: Justin and Ashleigh Donnelly, with 16-month-old Rosemary and St Patrick’s East Gosford parish Priest Fr Greg Skulski SDS. The Donnellys have signed up as part of the first group to be leaders of the Domestic Church Movement, a program aimed at renewing Catholic family life – and therefore the Church. Photo: ALphonsus Fok

Initially couples wanting to be part of the movement attend a retreat allowing them to experience their faith in a new and deeper way before joining a “circle” of 4 to 7 other couples and a priest who meet once a month in one of their homes to share their joys and hardships, pray together, study the Bible and discuss their spiritual growth.

Couples also promise to follow the seven commitments that make up the “method” for the Domestic Church movement, including daily individual prayer, daily couple prayer, regular study of the Scripture and family prayer.

After joining a circle, each couple has 9 months to decide if they want to commit to continued formation, and after two years enter the mainstream Domestic Church and can pass on what they have learnt and give back to the community.

“He said that while the program had only just been introduced, he had already been contacted by several Australian parishes interested in implementing it.”

Parish priest Fr Greg Skulski SDS said the Domestic Church Movement quite simply shows couples that a grace-filled marriage overflows into grace-filled families.

He said that while the program had only just been introduced, he had already been contacted by several Australian parishes interested in implementing it.

“I really can’t believe we are the first in Australia to have it, so many families are looking for this type of program that they can share with other small groups of families and meet together on a semi-regular basis for not only social activities but also formation,” he said.

Father Greg launches the Movement in the parish during Mass at St Patrick’s in East Gosford. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
Father Greg launches the Movement in the parish during Mass at St Patrick’s in East Gosford. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

“Basically it’s a community of married couples who wish to live with God, develop their spiritual life and at the same time create friendships with other Catholic families.

“It’s so important the family get involved and nurture their faith, rather than expect their school or even the parish do it.

“Parents do find it difficult and this new program gives them the support and guidance to do it themselves and walk this journey of faith together with other like-minded families.

“I started thinking about implementing the program when a parishioner told me she and her husband had been coming to Church for twenty years but didn’t know many people yet her parents had been attending their own parish for fifty years and had formed countless friendships and often caught up socially.

“What she said really touched me, and I knew I had to find a program for all families in the parish to be able to connect and grow in friendship and formation together which this movement does.”

“She said she wanted what her parents had for her family and to mix with other Catholic families yet didn’t know how to do it.

“What she said really touched me, and I knew I had to find a program for all families in the parish to be able to connect and grow in friendship and formation together which this movement does.

“We only introduced it to the parish last weekend and it has already created a real buzz, I can honestly see it spreading to other parishes and dioceses across the country and changing the way Catholics engage with the Church and attend Mass.”

Scenes from an Aussie first: couples gather with Father Greg Skulski SDS after having elected to take leadership roles in the parish’s Domestic Church Movement program last week as the parish launched the new initiative. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
Scenes from an Aussie first: couples gather with Father Greg Skulski SDS after having elected to take leadership roles in the parish’s Domestic Church Movement program last week as the parish launched the new initiative. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

The Domestic Church is the family branch of the Light-Life Movement founded in Poland by Venerable Servant of God, Fr. Franciszek Blachnicki with the guidance and support of his bishop, Karol Wojtyła (later Pope St. John Paul II) who devoted it to the Immaculate Mother of the Church.

Today, more than 23,000 couples in 30 countries including the US, Sweden, Kenya, Russia, Brazil, Canada, China, Ukraine and the Philippines, are enjoying the structured formation in line with Catholic teachings and traditions, with the Holy Family adopted as its logo.

Fr Greg said one of the many attractions of the movement is that it provides families with structure to follow simple daily regimes in amongst busy family life.

“families today are so time poor and traditionally struggle to find time to take part in daily couple prayer, scripture studies or even meaningful dialogue with their spouses”.

“Families today are so time poor and traditionally struggle to find time to take part in daily couple prayer, Scripture studies or even meaningful dialogue with their spouses,” he said.

“The Domestic Church supports families in achieving this and enable them to make it part of their daily routine.

“I am so excited to see where it takes us, I know it is going to result in a stronger, more engaged parish of committed Catholic families and really do feel a renewed spirit within the parish.”