Planning for mission: the future of Sydney Archdiocese is underway

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    If evangelisation is the priority, our conversion is what leads to it

    A young man prays the rosary with fellow members of students outside the Supreme Court during the annual March for Life in Washington. If we want to evanglise as parishes and individuals, only personal conversion can give us what we are called to share with others. Photo: Leslie E. Kossoff, CNS

    A vision for the Archdiocese of Sydney

    When installed in November 2014, Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP had the opportunity to share something of his dreams for our Church in Sydney:

    “My hope is for a Church in which the Gospel is preached with joy, the wisdom of our tradition mined with fidelity, the sacraments celebrated with dignity and welcome, and the seminaries, convents and youth groups teeming with new life; a Church in which our parishes, chaplaincies and educational institutions are true centres of the new evangelisation, our laity theologically literate and spiritually well-formed, our outreach to the needy effective and growing, and God glorified above all.”

    This vision of ongoing growth and renewal remains at the heart of our mission as an Archdiocese for the future, with the many strengths of the Church in Sydney including its diversity, piety, scale and apostolic zeal of its pastors and people.

    Parish 2020

    Soon after his installation, Archbishop Fisher initiated a five year pastoral planning project entitled ‘Parish 2020’ with the goal of examining the situation and mission of the Archdiocese, its challenges and opportunities, the spiritual gifts of its people, and the structures that can best support new approaches to evangelisation and renewal of our local communities of faith.

    Over the past months a review has been undertaken of the progress of ‘Parish 2020’, the insights and community responses since December 2016.

    Daniel Ang with visiting US parish renewal expert Sherry Weddell in 2019. Making parishes centres of discipleship and outreach will be at the heart of our Archdiocesan Mission Plan. GIOVANNI PORTELLI

    This has included collating and examining the feedback from various consultations held over the past three years including with deaneries, via forums, and community surveys that sought to identify the needs and aspirations of our parishes.

    In the responses gathered over these years, there is clear recognition among our Sydney communities of the priority of the mission of evangelisation – the mission to bring people onto the path of discipleship by a fruitful encounter with Jesus, the surrender of faith and the decision to follow.

    There has also been acknowledgement that if our focus is on structural change alone without spiritual renewal or missionary conversion, there is nothing to prevent the ongoing decline of communities only on a larger scale.

    A man prays alongside a child as Pope Francis celebrates Mass in Maputo, Mozambique, last September. If evangelisation is driven by prayer and encounter, renewing parishes as living centres of faith and conversion is essential for the future”

    However, for some communities it will be that if spiritual renewal and health are pursued without considering our structures – the way we are organised for God’s mission – some parishes can lack the people and resources for sustainable and effective missionary outreach.

    Like Christians of every generation, we are called to spiritual renewal and also new ways of organising our resources in changed circumstances.

    The goal of this undertaking is to ensure that all of our communities, agencies and people are supported to be mission-oriented and better connected with one another, sustainably resourced to reach out to those yet to hear the message of the Gospel, and also to plan for generations to come.

    “The goal of this undertaking is to ensure that all of our communities, agencies and people are supported to be mission-oriented and better connected with one another …”

    As such, the insights of ‘Parish 2020’ will be integrated into and extended by an Archdiocesan Mission Plan to be released later this year.

    It will communicate the Archbishop’s vision for the future and the pastoral priorities drawn from consultation and research.

    It will also identify key foundations of parish vitality – including evangelisation, leadership, community, formation and worship – and provide a practical resource for parish leadership, parish pastoral councils, ministry leaders, and local groups to deepen discipleship and make disciples of others.

    Resources for the job ahead of us

    The Archdiocesan Mission Plan will be accompanied by a refreshed website, as well as engaging the support of the Evangelisation office in the Archdiocese and the Chancery in the years ahead to provide support to local parishes and communities in the implementation of spiritual and organisational renewal. Especially in times of great change, we rightly cling to those things that are perennial: one faith, one Lord, one Baptism.

    At the same time we are called to new passion, expressions and methods of evangelisation and community-building in Sydney.

    The path of renewal

    Every pastor, every member of the faithful and all our parish communities are called to deep spiritual renewal, to being better connected with each other, and to reaching out better to others. We celebrate the rich faith and good works that are already present and active in our parishes and also hear as disciples the Gospel’s call to ongoing conversion and constant spiritual renewal.

    As we enter this new year of possibility for mission, we encourage with great faith your courage and gifts to the mission of parish renewal as the Church in Sydney seeks to live the great commission given to us by Jesus in this twenty-first century, to “go make disciples” (Matthew 28:19).

    We look forward to sharing more good news and updates on our Archdiocesan Mission Plan throughout 2020.

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