Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Address to the staff of the ACBC General Secretariat, Canberra
“Working for the Church in the Time of Perceived Irrelavancy”
Canberra, 22 July 2019
PART 5: CONCLUSION
There is a sense that we are being cut loose from the safe and secure moorings of the past. But that has been the pattern of the Judeo-Christian story even since Abraham and Sarah left the land of Ur to go to where the spirit beckoned.
It’s in their DNA and ours to read the signs of the times and follow where the river flows. It is not in yearning for or holding onto the known and the familiar but in reimagining the future and venturing into the unknown chaos like the old exodus that we shall find new life.
We can react with fear, despair or denial in these unsettling times. This was the way many Israelites reacted when faced with the barren desert. I suspect many of our contemporaries do the same with respect to the crisis in the Church. There is something hauntingly similar between the Israelites’ penchant for certitudes of Egypt and many of Pope Francis’ critics’ demands for dogmatic clarity.
The time that we are living in can be likened to Holy Saturday in the Gospel. It is a liminal interval, a time in which one stands between the old and the new. Our task is to live the creative tension between the pain of the present and the hope of the future.
The Catholic Church in this country will face diminishment and decline as a result of combined forces such as the secularisation of our society, the institutional malaise and of course, the impact of the Royal Commission.
There will be collateral damage that will impact adversely on the Church’s mission. And that’s alright as long as we like the midwives during the slavery in Egypt know how to deliver and nurture new life in the face of painful transition.
It humbles me that God is in the mess, the margins, the disorientation and even in the perceived irrelevancy of the Church. It comforts me, too, to know that the Church was not at its best when it reached the heights of its power in what was known as Christendom.
The Church was at its best when it was poor, persecuted and powerless. All of the metaphors and all of the dispositions of Jesus point to a humble Church: a little salt, a little yeast and a little light. Christendom and for the most part of history, we have tried to be great, powerful and dominant.
This liminal time may turn out to be the best time to be part of a humble, inclusive and servant Church.
With Pope Francis, I pray that we be led from the old way, which is deeply steeped in clerical practice and structure to the new ways of being Church that will convey the freshness of the Gospel.
Most Rev Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv
Bishop of Parramatta
To read Part 4 of Bishop Vincent’s address, click here.
To read the full text of Bishop Vincent’s address, click here.