Laughs, prayers and reflection at Parish Support Day

By Mary Brazell, 5 April 2019
Parish Support staff members during the Parish Support Day. Image: Mary Brazell/Diocese of Parramatta.


In the peaceful surroundings of the Marymount Mercy Centre in Castle Hill, 31 parish secretaries and administrative staff came together to spend time talking with God.

The Parish Support Day was run by members of the Diocese of Parramatta’s Parish Support Team on Wednesday 4 April.

It gave staff from Catholic parishes across Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains a chance to stop and reflect during the Lenten season.

View images from the Parish Support Day here or below.

At the beginning of his Lenten reflection, Fr Chris de Souza, Vicar General and Episcopal Vicar for Education and Formation, Diocese of Parramatta, put the reflection day in perspective for the parish staff members.

“As we are in the fourth week of Lent, it might be important to step aside and give yourselves that time to ask some significant questions about you faith and your faith journey,” Fr Chris said.

“I’m hoping you’ll spend some time talking with God.”

Fr Chris de Souza then reflected on the previous Sunday’s Gospel – the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:1-3, 11-32).

Fr Chris de Souza speaks during the Parish Support Day. Image: Mary Brazell/Diocese of Parramatta.

“This story about a forgiving father highlights one of the great sacraments of the church.

“Because of anthropomorphism, we started to talk about ourselves, so we took on the word confession, because it was all about what we’re doing. But sacraments are not about what we’re doing, sacraments are what God is doing. So, the church changed the name and went back to the old name – reconciliation.

“I want to give you some time to look at your life and ask the question, what is God doing? And the clue is God only does wonderful things.

“You are experts in what you do – you are valued for what you do and valued by the whole community, not just your parish community. But at the same time, all of us can be better at what we do. We can all be better at being Good News ambassadors,” Fr Chris said.

In the second half of his reflection, Fr Chris highlighted the messages in the story of the Raising of Lazarus (John 11: 1-44).

“Sin is often associated with death, but death here is associated with some very interesting words – smell.

“Sometimes when we have been sitting in our sin, we begin to smell. Perhaps the smell is righteousness. I think, part of the smell is when we see the problem that someone else has.

“We can smell sometimes using very pious words, but only you and God will know if you smell, and possibly the people who really love you.

“What is the stone we put in front of ourselves, so I don’t smell my sin?” Fr Chris asked.

“If I’m stuck in guilt and shame, I won’t here the Good News from Jesus or from God. When God names our sin, he calls out in love because he’s seen the good in us, he’s calling the good forth,” Fr Chris said.

Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv celebrates Mass during the Parish Support Day. Image: Mary Brazell/Diocese of Parramatta.

Mass was then celebrated in the Chapel with Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv.

Following lunch, the last session of the day allowed parish secretaries and administrative staff members to learn more about Bishop Vincent.

In discussion with Geoff Officer, Chief of Operations & Finance, Diocese of Parramatta, Bishop Vincent reflected on his early life, his call to the Franciscan Order and his reflections on Pope Francis.

Adrian Middeldorp, Parish Relationship Manager & Internal Communications, Diocese of Parramatta, said that the parish reflection day was a great success.

“The speakers were fantastic, attendance was high, and the greatest problem was we ran out of time to fit everything in.

“The highlight of the day was the very frank and candid ‘get to know the bishop’ session in the afternoon. It was interesting hearing about the Bishop’s life leaving Vietnam and growing up in Springvale,” Adrian said.

Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv and Geoff Officer, Chief of Operations & Finance, during the Parish Support Day. Image: Mary Brazell/Diocese of Parramatta.

Lisa J Echevarria, parish secretary at St Madeleine Sophie Barat Parish, Kenthurst, said she was grateful for the chance to stop during the reflection day.

“I was really grateful for the opportunity to quiet down [on Wednesday]. It’s not something we secretaries get to do a lot,” she explained.

“Fr Chris’s reflections somehow brought home the point that I can’t – and shouldn’t – try to control how everything turns out. In an effort to be the best I can be at my work, I think I forget to just let God be.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the ‘getting to know’ session. I appreciated him [Bishop Vincent] verbalising that the church will not likely go back to the way it was, but that together, we can make it into the kingdom of God relevant in our times.”

View images from the Parish Support Day here or below.

Parish Support Day (03.04.19)

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