Strong support shown at O’Connor Parish planning day
We are called to bear witness to a constantly new way of living together in fidelity to the Gospel … Let us be realists, but without losing our joy, our boldness and our hope-filled commitment. —Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 92, 109.
On Saturday February 9, 47 people involved in various ministries at St Joseph’s O’Connor met for a planning day. This in itself was a big feat for the parish, which just over twelve months ago, did not even have a Parish Pastoral Council.
I’ve been amazed at how many gifted people there are at St Joseph’s and regularly encourage people to use their talents for the community. This has led to many new ministry groups forming and activities happening in the parish. The planning day is just one example of this.
Late last year, parishioner Trudy Dantis, Director of the ACBC National Centre for Pastoral Research with a doctorate in Catholic parish vitality, and author of A Handbook for Building Stronger Parishes, spoke to me of her experience in parish renewal. I quickly realised she not only had experience, but also expertise in this area, which is when the seed of the planning day was planted.
Although I knew of the great work that the many and varied groups of the parish had been involved in, I was aware that we had not come together as a parish community to look at our overall strengths and that not everyone was aware of what the various groups of the parish actually did. I was excited to explore if there were opportunities for various groups to work together and form a unified vision which we are all part of.
[A] Pastoral plan … goals and methods, formation and enrichment of the people involved and the search for the necessary resources … will enable the proclamation of Christ to reach people, mould communities, and have a deep and incisive influence in bringing Gospel values to bear in society and culture. — Pope John Paul II, Novo Millennio Ineunte, 29.
The day began with Mass, after which Trudy presented the Parish Social Profile based on the 2016 Australian Census, as well as results from the National Church Life Survey of 2016. There were many interesting statistics that helped inform the pastoral activity of the parish. One statistic I was quite surprised to hear was that only 37% of respondents were at the same address in O’Connor when they filled out the census in 2011.
In other words, this parish has a high mobility, which will affect the coming and going of people into various ministry groups. This was directly reflected in the Liturgy Group’s priority to welcome any new visitors to St Joseph’s by strengthening the welcoming committee.
The morning continued as people were given the opportunity to speak of what they loved about St Joseph’s, before everyone moved into their various ministries to do a Strength, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis of their particular ministry group.
Participants included members of the: Faith and Reason (philosophy group); Unpacking the Creed (theology group); Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults; Neo-Catechumenal Way; Legion of Mary; school community; mothers’ group; young men and fathers’ group; young families group; senior family group; widows’ group; baptism group; hospitality group; various prayer groups; social media, multimedia and promotions group; gardening and ecology group; outreach to the sick and housebound; acolytes; choir; readers; welcomers; and the finance council.
As pastor, I appreciated the opportunity to truly hear from those involved in ministry. I heard of concerns that parishioners felt we face as a parish community, which I will reflect on and address further. But I also heard much positive feedback and ideas for the future. I have a real sense that we are being guided by the Holy Spirit.
If the parish proves capable of self-renewal and constant adaptivity, it continues to be the Church living in the midst of the homes of her sons and daughters. This presumes that it really is in contact with the homes and the lives of its people, and does not become a useless structure out of touch with people or a self-absorbed group made up of a chosen few. — Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 28.
My heartfelt thanks to Trudy, to all who participated, and to those who helped provide a beautiful lunch which ended the morning session, before the Pastoral Council gathered in the afternoon to debrief and plan ahead for the next Pastoral Council Meeting, which will take place on Friday, February 22, where the results of the planning day will begin to be implemented.
Source: Fr Paul Nulley, Parish Priest, O’Connor