Sydney in Mission: Calling Disciples of Christ

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Youth hold hands in prayer during the Australian Catholic Youth Festival in 2017. Young people will flock to the Church when they sense authentic discipleship. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

When the remaining disciples saw the risen Lord on Ascension Mount, Matthew tells us, “they worshipped Him; though some doubted” it was him.

“Then Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the very end of the age’” (Mt 28:18-20).

The Lord’s Great Commission

This ‘great commission’ is given anew to every generation. As Pope Francis has affirmed, “In our day Jesus’ command to ‘go and make disciples’ echoes in the changing scenarios and ever new challenges to the Church’s mission of evangelisation, and all of us are called to take part in this new missionary ‘going forth’!” (Evangelii Gaudium 20).

As the Church in Sydney, we seek to live as disciples of Jesus Christ in a time of unprecedented change.

Sydney’s population continues to grow while the way people live, work and worship has changed. Not as many people engage with our parishes or transmit faith and practice to their children as once did.

A Catholic school students relax as they listen to one of the many presentations at the Australian Catholic Youth Festival in 2017. The event say huge numbers of young respond positively to the presentation of Christ, the Gospel and the Church. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

A changing society

Our culture is less supportive and many now identify as ‘no religion’. Some traditional methods of outreach no longer work. Today, as on Ascension Mount, some ‘worship’ while others ‘doubt’.

What we have learned from our history and present can be carried into our future – that the call to be a disciple of Christ is at the heart of the renewal and mission of Christ’s Church, including our parishes.

Our parish resources and programs serve only as proxies for the evangelising relationships by which people come to the virtue and act of faith in the midst of the Church.
This is because it is not programs that make disciples but disciples that make disciples, and so every one of the baptised has an essential role in the renewal of our Church.

Schoenstatt Sister M Julie Brcar ISSM displays her temporary ACYF tatoo during the gathering which saw nearly 20,000 young people spend three days encountering the Gospel and the Church. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

Directions for the future

As we look to our future, we are greatly encouraged by Catholic speaker Sherry Weddell, considered an expert on parish renewal, who affirms with hope:

“The presence of a significant number of disciples changes everything: a parish’s spiritual tone, energy level, attendance, bottom line, and what parishioners ask of their leaders. Disciples pray with passion. Disciples worship. Disciples give lavishly.

What does discipleship look like?

“Disciples love the Church and serve her with energy and joy. Disciples hunger to learn more about their faith. Disciples fill every formation class in a parish or diocese.
Disciples manifest charisms and discern vocations. They clamour to discern God’s call because they long to live it. Disciples evangelise because they have really good news to share. Disciples share their faith with their children. Disciples care about the poor and about issues of justice. Disciples take risks for the Kingdom of God.”

It is this call to personal conversion in Christ that we must hear again and again and it is the everyday work of evangelisation to offer and enable that encounter in our parishes, schools and agencies “by which a person is one day overwhelmed and brought to the decision to entrust himself or herself to Jesus Christ by faith” (John Paul II, Catechesi Tradendae 25).

Wearing football jerseys, Tongan Catholics enjoy the spirit of ACYF in 2017. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

As we plan for our future as an Archdiocese, we desire that every parish flourish as an outpost of the ‘great commission’, making disciples who bear fruit for God (Romans 7:4) now and for generations to come.

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