It’s probably safe to say that with our current, deepening lockdown, the ways we listen have changed.
The Diocesan Be MET night on 12 August gave us the opportunity to hear and discuss how we listen as people and as a Church, particularly in terms of the upcoming assembly of the Plenary Council. The number of those participating was encouraging. Following last week’s invitation to “bring a friend”, over 40 people gathered online over Zoom and via Facebook live stream.
Carol Teodori-Blahut, a member of the Plenary Council from the Diocese of Parramatta, led us in a beautiful prayer invoking the Holy Spirit. Co-written by Carol and her fellow Council member, Wendy Goonan, the prayer was developed for the Diocese of Parramatta, and invites us to continue the work of listening to what the Spirit is saying to us.
And then, the moment we were all waiting for…the reveal of the evening’s ‘mystery guest’ – Fr Chris de Souza. One of the Vicars General of the Diocese and parish priest at St Oliver Plunkett Parish, Harris Park, Fr Chris is also a member of the Plenary Council from the Diocese. Drawing on his knowledge and experience, he led us into a deeper focus on the Plenary Council and emphasised listening as its main theme.
“Hearing is a reflex”, he said, “but listening is a decision, because it requires a choice.”
Fr Chris also touched on the impact that the pandemic has on our listening, saying, “Maybe this time of pandemic is a call for us to listen more broadly and openly to the voices around us, the voices that may just be whispers.” Our need to connect with others online requires us to listen more deeply and differently than we would in person, he explained.
The Feast of the Assumption falls this weekend, and Fr Chris noted how timely this is for us, with the hope that, as we listen, “the Word will continue to be enfleshed in our hearts, in our minds, and in each other.”
Carol also spoke about the importance of listening as she shared what being a lay, female member of the Plenary Council means for her. Her many years of parish work have helped her to see the Church more broadly. “I see my mission as to the local people of God”, she said.
Carol described her life as a journey of saying yes, which has brought her to many different places and has called her to listen with the same openness that Mary, mother of Jesus had.
Through keeping connected, Be MET gatherings also provide a chance to remind us to care for our mental health, and Sr Ailsa Mackinnon, the Chancellor of Ministries, reminded us of the tips for “surviving lockdown” which have been shared over previous weeks. She personally invited us to reflect on and share how we are living the beautiful words of poet Mary Oliver in our everyday: “what are you doing with your one wild and precious life?” Participants shared activities varying from catching some sunshine each day to walking and connecting with our neighbours, even at a distance.
Tara Wall, youth minister at St Patrick’s Guildford, spoke about the exciting initiatives of the parish’s “Clovers” youth group, and encouraged us to join and share upcoming events and follow the youth group’s Instagram.
Sr Grace concluded the evening with the takeaway: “Stay COVID negative and spirit positive”.
The Be MET online gathering was part of the Diocese’s HOME Ground program hosted by the Mission Enhancement Team from the Diocese of Parramatta. You can find the rest of the program that continues until the end of next week and register for events here.
More information on the Plenary Council can be found here. If you have questions or comments on the Plenary Council please them to firstname.lastname@example.org so they can be forwarded to the Plenary Council members from the Diocese of Parramatta.
To find out more about the Clovers Youth Group at Guildford, go to @stpatsclovers.