Seek the lost treasure: US scholar’s pitch to Sydney Catholics

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Dr Mary Healy. Image: Screenshot

Second Reclaiming Evangelisation speaker issues stirring call to seek the lost ‘treasure’ of those outside the church

The Church today has the same mission and spiritual power as in the time of the apostles when the first Pentecost event broke them out of ‘lockdown’ in the upper room and on to the streets to proclaim the Good News, US-based Scripture scholar Dr Mary Healy told local Catholics last week.

In the second online talk in the Reclaiming Evangelisation series by the Parish Renewal Team of the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation, Dr Healy took her audience back to the beginnings of the church as described in the New Testament and explained that each baptised person is included in Jesus’ great commission to go and make disciples.

“In particular the Acts of the Apostles…were not written to give us ancient history, or tell us entertaining stories about the apostles. It was written to be the blueprint for the life and mission of the church today,” she said.

Accounts of spiritual and physical healings in the New Testament show that the Good News is effective in people’s lives, which is still the case today, Dr Healy explained. “Sometimes we proclaim the Gospel as if it’s a message without power, but the Gospel is not like any other message because it has the power to actually accomplish what it says,” she said.

More than 150 people participated in the live online event on 12 February titled ‘Why make disciples? What scripture tells us about calling and forming disciples’ which also included a [email protected] and small group discussions.

Members of the Pastoral Renewal Team with Daniel Ang and Dr Mary Healy prepare to welcome participants into the live zoom event. Photo: Screenshot

“We are so thankful to Dr Healy for giving us her time and hope-filled insights as part of our series on reclaiming evangelisation, said Daniel Ang, director of the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation.

“In the midst of the many challenges we can experience as a Church today, Dr Healy powerfully reminded us of that first bold faith of the apostolic Church, empowered by the Holy Spirit to share the mystery of Jesus with the world.

“I was particularly struck by her image of those first apostles as they broke out of their proverbial ‘lockdown’ in the Upper Room, were ‘clothed’ by the Spirit and then, relying on God’s power, were able to do more than they could have possibly imagined. It was the apostles’ hope in Christ that galvanised their commitment to ‘go’ and disciple others, and Dr Healy renewed us in that same hope for our mission today.”

SCE Parish Renewal Manager Elizabeth Arblaster said “This was an important talk because in our culture we swim in an unconscious “tyranny of relativism” which Pope Benedict has spoken of.

“In this, we Catholics can feel that sharing our good news is some kind of horrific imposition. But Dr Healy reminded us that this is not what we see in the New Testament.
“Jesus was sent by the Father to preach the good news through word and action and he founded the Church and sent his disciples to continue this, including us today.

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“In this way, Dr Healy has reminded us that real renewal in our parishes is about going back into our tradition and reclaiming who Jesus said we are, what He called us to do, and the manifold gifts God gave us to do it.”

Parish administrator at St Ambrose parish in Concord West, Fr Chaminda Wanigasena, said he found the talk inspiring and educational as the parish prepares to run its first pilot of Alpha. “It encouraged me in my own ministry as a priest to spend more time reaching out to people who may be baptised but are away from the faith,” he said.

Parishioner at All Saints Church in Liverpool Abboud (Abbott) Fattal said he would recommend that parish groups gather to watch the recording of the event. A few of Dr Healy’s observations struck him, such as her emphasis on the necessity of prayer and spiritual preparation.

“I was surprised by the idea that what Jesus read from the prophet Isaiah about his ministry was essentially his own mission statement, and that God has given each of us a mission statement,” he said.

“Dr Healy made the connection very clear, we are the same church today that prayed with Mary for the coming of the Holy Spirit” – parishioner denis mcnamara

Another participant, Denis McNamara also hoped people would watch the talk in parish group settings. “Dr Healy made the connection very clear, we are the same church today that prayed with Mary for the coming of the Holy Spirit,” he said.

“The successor to the Apostles in our community has made this opportunity of learning and being inspired available to us. Who could you watch this talk with in your parish?”

Another participant said Dr Healy made the link between Scripture and evangelisation clear for ordinary Catholics. “The reference to the lockdown of the apostles in the upper room at Pentecost and the fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit prompts a question – is that what we really need now? Are we fearful and unsure – is that the real issue behind our reluctance in going out to make disciples?

“Dr Healy gave us the remedy in Acts 4: they didn’t pray for safety, but for boldness and an injection of the Holy Spirit.”

The series was launched with a talk and [email protected] with US Catholic media evangelist Bishop Robert Barron last November. The series is aimed at inspiring and empowering parishes in their efforts at evangelisation and renewal.

Renowned retreat director and author Fr Jacques Philippe will speak to Sydney Catholics via zoom on March 23 from 7pm. His topic will be ‘Can we make disciples today? Evangelising with the Holy Spirit’.

Watch Dr Mary Healy’s talk and register for Reclaiming Evangelisation events at www.gomakedisciples.org.au/resources