If you happened to drop into the Bishop Bede Heather Centre in Blacktown on the evening of Tuesday, March 8, you would have seen a welcome sight: people gathering face-to-face for a night of reflection and encounter. Around twenty people from across the Diocese of Parramatta came together for a Lenten Scripture night entitled “Forgiveness and the God of Second Chances”, presented by well-known Scripture scholar Dr Laurie Woods and facilitated by the Pastoral Formation arm of the Mission Enhancement Team (MET).
Head of Formation for Mission with the MET, Sr Grace Roclawska csfn, touched on the experience of coming together again in person in her welcome to the group. “It feels like the world before COVID”, she said. “I think God has something very special for you tonight.”
And indeed God did.
Pastoral Formation Facilitator Donnie Velasco introduced Laurie to the group by asking him what was behind his motivation to take up Scripture as a career. A teacher of languages, he found himself thinking “maybe I’d love to read the Bible in the original language”, and then took classes in Biblical languages which helped him to see Scripture from a whole new angle.
With his down-to-earth approach and conversational style, Laurie drew the participants into this “new angle of seeing” through giving them a question to consider: what is my openness to taking and giving second chances? He reminded the group that such openness begins with listening. “The greatest compliment we can pay another person is to actually listen to what they have to say”, he said.
Laurie then teased out the theme of encouragement, posing questions like: when did I last feel someone lift me up? When did I last lift someone up? “Every night, I hug my wife and say, ‘I’m glad I’ve got you”, Laurie said. “We turn off the lights and I say to myself, ‘Did I encourage somebody today?’”
Laurie used the Gospel narrative of the fig tree to further reflect with participants on encouragement and second chances. “The tree had not yet reached its potential, it deserved a second chance”, he said. “We have potential. The secret of getting to that point of potential, achieving what we can be, takes courage.”
At the conclusion of the night, Pastoral Formation Facilitator Raimie Caramancion invited the group to reflect on what they heard and what was most moving for them. Raimie began the sharing with her own reflection. “I appreciated the exploration of Scripture as something to be entered into”, she said. For participant Clara, Laurie’s Scriptural reflections also resonated strongly. “I am staying with the words ‘Come back to me’”, she said. “This invitation is always with us. We can choose to say yes, no, or not just yet. Ultimately, I hope we say yes.”
Sr Grace closed the evening encouraging participants to continue their journey of faith and formation through Diocesan opportunities. One such opportunity, she said, could come through involvement in the Ministry Leadership courses facilitated by the Pastoral Formation Team. Acknowledging the reservations people carry as we continue to move slowly into more face-to-face gatherings, Sr Grace reassured participants that there are several options for involvement. “If you are hesitant and worried about commitment, we can work with you and work around you”. The priority is the experience of formation, she said. “I would like to make you apostles of sharing and spreading the Good News that comes your way.”
The Lenten Scripture night and the Ministry Leadership course are works of the Pastoral Formation team within the Mission Enhancement Team (MET). For more information on the Pastoral Formation team and their offerings, or to register for the Ministry in Leadership course, visit the team’s website. You can also like them on Facebook or follow them on Instagram @pastoralformation.