Between 12 and 14 July, five delegates from my parish, Mary, Queen of the Family Parish, Blacktown attended PROCLAIM 2018.
The conference was held at the Edmund Rice Performing Arts Centre of St Laurence’s College, deep in the heart of the Archdiocese of Brisbane. We were an eclectic mix of ordained and lay persons, representing different ministries and leadership teams within our parish.
PROCLAIM 2018 aims to inspire, equip and encourage parishes and faith communities to engage in evangelisation and renewal. The 3-day conference extensively explored this year’s theme of “Make your home in me…” (John 15:4) in relation to four dimensions: of leadership, evangelisation, belonging and young people.
This was no mean feat.
The conference drew esteemed speakers including host Archbishop Mark Coleridge; Cardinal John Dew from the other side of the Tasman; Ron Huntley, of Divine Renovation fame; Lana Turvey-Collins, Facilitator of the Plenary Council 2020, and Karolina Gunsser, from Citipointe Church. The conference also launched the National Guidelines for Lay Pastoral Ministry and provided resources in preparation for the Plenary Council 2020.
One of the things I appreciated from this conference experience was the opportunity to translate the ideas from expert speakers into practical strategies that could be implemented in my parish context. It was a bold and daring decision by the organisers to have each session as a facilitated conversation – which recognised the richness and diversity of the experiences and knowledge of the conference participants. Each session was of course led by an experienced facilitator and presenter.
I am very thankful that I was a participant in the sessions facilitated by Richard McMahon and Sr Kari Hatherell OSU (on leadership), Mike Humphrys and Daniel Ang (on evangelisation), Peter and Leone Pellicaan (on belonging) and Patrick and Kym Keady (on young people).
There was time set aside for parish groups to consolidate the ideas presented into short-term and long-term goals. The conversation from my parish group carried over from the allocated planning session into each break, then into dinner and even on the plane ride home!
Of particular interest to me was the conversations about how to engage young people – especially in this time of the Year of Youth. It was affirming to hear Archbishop Coleridge and Karolina Gunsser talk about a need to listen to what young people have to say about Church and to respond to their imagination and creativity with flexibility and openness to make faith and church accessible to everyone. The most obvious example is of Pope Francis and his ability to communicate to the world that faith is both an experience and life lived with God.
Some of the ideas I will be bringing back to my faith community in Blacktown include:
- Acknowledging that we cannot operate as lone rangers (Shane Dwyer)
- To “get out of the boat”: to let go of our fears, and go out and act out of comfort zones (Archbishop Mark Coleridge)
- That Church does not make sense unless you know Jesus (Ron Huntley)
- Letting belief determine behaviour rather than letting behaviour determine beliefs (Daniel Ang)
- That methods are not as important as the impact: what is important is excellence, and the ability of our methods and strategies to engage community into faith and respond to their needs.
I have spent the days following my return from PROCLAIM 2018 reflecting on the theme of the conference to “Make your home in me…”. The New Standard Revised Version makes use of the much stronger word, abide, such that the scripture reads as: “Abide in me as I abide in you”. This translation suggests that the action to make your home in me also means to accept, surrender and to be with God. The beauty of this surrender continues with the metaphor of the branch and the vine: “Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me”.
PROCLAIM 2018 has definitely affirmed my mission as a lay person to bring others to encounters with God. It has also instilled a responsibility that the way that I carry out this mission must be with God.
By Franchesca Tenedora. Franchesca is the Chairperson of the Parish Pastoral Council and a member of the Youth Ministry Team at Mary, Queen of the Family Parish, Blacktown.