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Saturday, June 22, 2024
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Parish renewal is never a solo endeavour

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Sydney Centre for Evangelisation director Daniel Ang with SCE team members Sr Anastasia Reeves OP, Elliott Bowen, Tania Rimac, Helen Wagner, Cassandra Chong and Hazel Lim. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

Some years ago, I attended a conference in New Zealand on parish renewal. A keynote speaker jested that sometimes these gatherings can be all “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit…” but when we return home to our parishes it can feel more like “… as it was in the beginning is now, and ever shall be, world without end”.

Bringing God’s vision to life in our local communities is not without its challenges, not for the faint hearted, and never a solo endeavour.

It is for these reasons that our Parish Renewal Team will gather hundreds of people this August at the Archdiocese’s second parish renewal conference following the success of the inaugural conference of 2022.

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With a focus on leading change “in such a time as this” – an inspiration from the Book of Esther – the conference will acknowledge that many of the phenomena we see today in our local communities can be confronting. This includes fewer in attendance and volunteering than we might like to see, limited resources, uneven liturgies, a quiet sense of inertia in some parishes or otherwise rival visions of the church in our pews, schools and in our wider culture. Much like Esther in the shadow of existential threat, who faced the demise of her own people, our faith can be sorely tested in such a time as this.

However, it is precisely in the experience of scarcity or even seeming diminishment that we can arrive at a deeper dawn of faith and courage in dependence on Christ, discover anew the confidence that faith brings, to lead with hope and take action to embed that hope in our pastoral practice.

parish renewal conference sydney - The Catholic weekly
Parishes from all over Sydney as well as other Australian dioceses were represented at the inaugural Parish Renewal Conference held at St Mary’s Cathedral College, Sydney, 19-20 August 2022. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

We believe that it is precisely in this age, amidst cultural conditions not of our choosing, that the church is experiencing a moment of paschal transformation. The divisions within our world and the cross that stands at the heart of our church are an invitation to a more intentional and missionary stance in our Catholic faith, to embrace the demands of radical conversion, deep fidelity, joyful discipleship and courageous outreach to all those who are far from God’s love encountered in Jesus Christ.

Participants at this August’s conference will have the opportunity to learn from those who have led such lasting missionary transformation in their communities and dioceses, hear what is happening in other parishes and countries, network with other leaders across Sydney and beyond who share their passion and practical insights for renewal “from the trenches,” and above all to pray together and be encouraged in the mission to which Christ has called us.

Keynote speakers will include our own Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP on the call of our parishes in such a time as this, filled as it is with challenge but also replete with opportunity. This will be followed by Bishop John Adams who led over many years the renewal of the Parish of Peter Chanel at Waimakariri, north of Christchurch, as parish priest and who now leads the same rejuvenation across the diocese of Palmerston North of which he is now bishop.

These witnesses to transformation will bring the possibility of renewal close to our own experience, whether our parishes are in the city or suburbs of Sydney or in regional or rural contexts. There will be practical workshops on cultivating a culture of discipleship and evangelisation in local communities in stepwise and achievable ways, and engaging young disciples in the context of parish life will also be an area of conversation.

Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP addresses participants at the opening of the Parish Renewal Conference on 19 August. The conference was organised by the Archdiocese of Sydney’s Centre for Evangelisation. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

The foundational graces of prayer and time for reflection on take-home strategies will also be on offer throughout the day conference, as will opportunity to embrace the role and presence of the Holy Spirit as the protagonist of evangelisation.

Our parishes are oriented toward growth and apostolic at their core as each is gifted with the real presence of Christ, the Lord who never fails to call people to Himself. The invitation of this conference is to open ourselves to being more deeply a part of His mission, and to pray for and work toward the flourishing of these communities as outposts of his Great Commission.

Click here to secure your place at the second Sydney Parish Renewal Conference.

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