New Pastoral Councils – Follow the Star of Bethlehem

By Richard McMahon, 23 January 2018

Hopkins’ carol We Three Kings of Orient Are celebrates the Magi’s journey to Bethlehem, stirring our souls as we sing: “Westward leading, still proceeding, guide us to thy perfect light!”

The Bethlehem Star whispers hope to every Christian, enkindling our yearning to attain the light of Christ, yet tasting sweet melancholy, for the Star beckons, “still proceeding” beyond our reach.

Pastoral planning mirrors the disciple’s path, on the one hand growing our faith in the Star of Jesus Christ, and on the other, stumbling along a sometimes painful and risky road as we share our faith, in the life-giving course offered by this same Star.

Our call to follow the Star is the topic of many of the parish pastoral council formation sessions I have facilitated during the year. The same questions arise: How do we engage more people in our life of faith? How do we reach out to those who are disconnected, seeking, wounded and thirsting in our midst?

It is as if our council members are exclaiming: we see the Star that changes our lives, how can we help others experience our journey into its marvellous light?

The Magi’s example can guide us:

  1. Keep our gazes fixed on the Star
    First abide in the light of Christ, pastoral initiatives and actions come second
  2. Bring your finest gifts
    Like the Magi, we cannot do everything – sacrifice some ideas for the essential ones
  3. Journey together
    Assistance is available for large parish projects from our Pastoral Planning Office

Of course, our Magi deserve to be properly resourced. Has anyone else travelled this path? What happens if our camels encounter a speed hump? Our pastoral planning office, through the Diocesan Pastoral Plan, offers many resources, often inspired by local faith communities. Our office has also listened to our parishes in 2017 through inviting them to share their strengths, challenges and hopes, coordinated annual attendance counts and assisted with national surveys, all to help us better understand what is needed on the road ahead.

Bishop Vincent Long recently invited more magi to collaborate on our pilgrimage, with his call to establish a diocesan pastoral council and deanery pastoral councils. He invites us to strengthen our mission, as we share the joy of the Star, listen to one another’s wisdom learnt through the struggles of the journey, and work towards renewed ways to share the light of Christ. And we join an even greater pilgrimage, as our Australian Bishops invite us to participate in a National Synod in 2020, to grieve our failings, refocus on the Star of Bethlehem, and revitalise our work of sharing our faith and growing our faith in Christ.

The call for nominations went across the entire Diocese. People nominated themselves or others and received references from local parish priests. To see the fill list of names visit:

Our Pastoral Planning Office wishes you a peace-filled Season, and invites you to make contact in the New Year to ponder how we may aid you and your community in our quest to follow the Star.



This article first appeared in the December 2017 print edition of Catholic Outlook.

At the request of Most Rev Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, Catholic Outlook was printed in December 2017 to connect the Diocese and showcase the good works across the Diocese’s many agencies and ministries. 

Read Daily
* indicates required