A new start for a centre of faith in the Diocese of Parramatta

By Christina Gretton, 6 June 2022
Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta with members of the Diocese of Parramatta staff during the blessing of the Bishop Bede Heather Centre on 26 May 2022. Image: Diocese of Parramatta.

“Bishop Bede was more about opening doors.”  

Fr Paul Slyney, Parish Priest of St Thomas Aquinas Parish, Springwood explained how, as the first Bishop of the newly formed Diocese of Parramatta, his friend Bishop Bede Heather recognised the fallibility behind humanity. Rather than judge a person for their vulnerability, he embraced it, and did what he could to gently guide a person back to Jesus. 

Fr Paul’s description of Bishop Bede’s approach, “He spoke of God, and love and welcome,” is how Bishop Vincent Long, OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, hopes the newly renamed Bishop Bede Heather Centre at Blacktown, will inspire others to come and learn and embrace their faith, so they too can spread the Good News to others. 

“We ask that those who come here, and work here, can find the image of Christ,” said Bishop Vincent as he welcomed the guests at the renaming and blessing of the former Institute For Mission (IFM) building on Thursday 26 May 2022. 

Bishop Bede set the direction at a critical time, said Bishop Vincent, grounded firmly in the Second Vatican Council, (Vatican II). 

“What we are doing here is an expression of that ecclesial vision,” said Bishop Vincent. He made particular note of how Bishop Bede would have approved of the centre being the offices for the Columban Centre for Christian-Muslim Relations, which encourages engagement with other faith traditions. 

“The Church is not a museum of the saints,” said Bishop Vincent, “but a field hospital for the wounded,” referring to Pope Francis’ description of how he sees the Catholic Church. “it’s a direction I’m privileged to continue moving forward.” 

Guests at the Blessing included members of parishes, current staff of the Diocese and parishes, previous employees, and friends of Bishop Bede, including Fr Paul, and Leona Sweeney Bishop Bede’s former secretary and long-time friend until his death in 2021. 

Guests heard from a number of speakers including Sr Ailsa Mackinnon, Chancellor of the Diocese of Parramatta who oversees the Mission Enhancement Team which holds many outreach programs and courses at the centre. Courses held in the cosily-decorated rooms are many and varied, and include Ministry Leadership programs, courses for those wishing to serve at Mass, and speakers on social justice. 

“It’s a place where people can grow up in their faith,” she said. 

During the Blessing, photos from the past uses of the centre were screened. As well as being home to the former Institute For Mission, and the Columban Centre, was also a former headquarters for Catholic Education in the early 1980s.  

A Member of the Plenary Council from the Diocese of Parramatta, and member of the Diocesan Synod of Bishops Committee, Wendy Goonan, has spent many hours at the centre over the years. As well as growing in her faith, she commented on the sense of community it fosters. “I have made lots of connections here,” she told the other guests. 

Those who work in ministry at the Diocese of Parramatta encourage all parishioners in the Diocese of Parramatta to consider checking out some of the offerings being held at the Bishop Bede Heather Centre, 1-5 Marion St, Blacktown. There is also a library of books on faith that can be borrowed. You can find a program of What’s On at parracatholic.org/met. 

See the photos from the blessing of the Bishop Bede Heather Centre here.

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