A day dedicated to practical support tailored to their parish is an opportunity not to be missed by priests and their leadership teams in the Archdiocese of Sydney, says Fr Tony Alex MGL.
The priest at Our Lady of Fatima church in Peakhurst gathered with 10 parish leaders recently at a Parishes for Mission Day facilitated by the Parish Renewal Team led by Elizabeth Arblaster at the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation.
The Peakhurst crew joined 30 other priests and parish leaders from St Luke’s, Revesby (who hosted the day), and St Patrick’s and St Christopher’s, Revesby Heights-Panania, for a day of prayer and practical guidance as they continue to build communities of faith and mission.
Participants said that the day had exceeded their expectations and they came away with a reinvigorated sense of their parish’s mission in its unique circumstances, as well as some things they are excited about implementing straight away.
“What really inspired me was the way it was conducted, beginning with a session looking at the pastoral realities specific to our local areas and then different ways we may choose to reach out to people,” Fr Tony said.
But there’s so much power in being able to express something to others about your faith which is personal.
“I really appreciate that the archdiocese with its Go Make Disciples mission plan is working towards a focus on evangelisation, of being a church that is not just centred on having people come to church, but on going out to them as well.
“When you read the plan it can seem so huge, but the way the team presented it was that you can just start small with something very specific and work from there.
“And it must always be in the context of prayer, so you can see when good things happen that it’s the spirit of God who is working through your prayer and starting to work in the people who you encounter.”
Participants said that powerful highlights of the day included a session on group discernment and promoting unity in parish leadership, spiritual conversations, time for Eucharistic adoration, and the opportunity to reflect upon, and share if they wished, a time when they knew God had powerfully intervened in their own life.
“Three people shared their own testimony and wow, each of them were so moving,” Fr Tony said. “That really changed the perspective for everyone on what evangelisation is about, we just need to share our own lives and our encounters with God and people are longing to hear this.”
Fr Tony said he would “absolutely” recommend priests contact the Parish Renewal Team and invite them to run the day for them and their parish’s lay leaders.
“It helps the whole group to appreciate more deeply what evangelisation is and establish a clear pathway together of how to go about it in their own parish. And it is so easy because the Sydney Centre of Evangelisation is offering great support, which is such a blessing, particularly for priests.”
the Sydney Centre of Evangelisation is offering great support, which is such a blessing, particularly for priests
Chair of the parish pastoral council at St Luke’s, Louise Missen, said that hosting the day in the Revesby parish “was a great way for our community to come together to share ideas and to refocus on the core mission as a Catholic, which is to go out and make disciples”.
“It was wonderful to hear our leaders heading in the same direction and feeling excited about the future,” she said.
“It was also a good time for us to start thinking about how we spread the vision to the whole community so they too will join us and spread the joy.”
Megan Perez, parishioner at St Patrick’s, went along mainly because she was
invited by another parishioner, which she says in itself reflects the power of personal invitation when it comes to evangelisation initiatives.
“They made it clear that evangelisation is not a project to be managed,” she said. “The question we need to ask ourselves as parish leaders is do we just want more bums on seats or do we want God to possess our lives so that we can share God’s love with others more effectively? Because that is our mission.
THE QUESTION WE NEED TO ASK OURSELVES AS PARISH LEADERS IS DO WE JUST WANT MORE BUMS ON SEATS OR DO WE WANT GOD TO POSSESS OUR LIVES SO THAT WE CAN SHARE GOD’S LOVE WITH OTHERS MORE EFFECTIVELY?
“They also pointed out that it’s important to reconnect not only with the people we know are in our parish but people across its broader geographical area.
“The day also really revealed to me the power of personal testimony. People are generally reluctant to share those kinds of moments with other people, which I think is understandable and I know I’ve kept my faith mostly private and hidden. But there’s so much power in being able to express something to others about your faith which is personal.”
Miss Arblaster said the renewal of a parish can’t be treated a bureaucratic exercise or one focussed on activity for the sake of activity.
“So what we seek to do on these days is to give solid spiritual and theological formation to lay people serving in key ministries and groups, and a prayerful Christ-centred framework in which to make decisions, so that they can be quite intentional about giving people opportunities that help them to encounter the Lord and go deeper with Him.”
Priests of the Archdiocese of Sydney who are interesting in attending or hosting a Parishes for Mission Day may contact the Parish Renewal Team at [email protected]