170 attendees from Catholic parishes across New South Wales have gathered together for the NSW Pastoral Ministry Conference, held at the Dooley’s Catholic Club, Lidcombe on Tuesday 26 February 2019.
Organised by the NSW Association of Pastors, Pastoral Associates and Pastoral Workers (NAPPA), the conference titled Drawing and Giving Live, with a focus on the scripture ‘you will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation’ (Isaiah 12:3), invited attendees to renew their pastoral life in the post Royal-Commission Church.
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Richard McMahon, NAPPA co-chair and Director of Pastoral Planning & Implementation, Diocese of Parramatta and Ana Pintos, NAPPA co-chair and Pastoral Associate at Our Lady, Queen of Peace Parish, Greystanes, began the conference with an acknowledgement of country and prayers. Carmel Fenton, NAPPA Secretary and Pastoral Associate of Luddenham-Warragamba Parish, proclaimed the Gospel, which was followed by a sprinkling rite.
Very Rev Dr David Ranson, Administrator of the Diocese of Broken Bay, addressed attendees as part of the welcome.
“Andrew Reedy, an American sociologist, once commented that there is no more ingenious form of community than a Catholic parish. It’s an extraordinary network of relationships.
“The Catholic parish has a prophetic quality about it, particularly today. It is form of community that we require more than ever because of the forces of disconnection and of isolation that mark our contemporary experience.
“Here in Australia, the parish continues to be the place primarily by which people become church – that living social body that bears the light of the risen Christ.
“It is my hope that particularly as we journey towards the Plenary Council 2020, our parishes of Australia will enjoy focus and development.
“The Plenary itself is prefaced on the notion of ‘synodality’ – this sense of walking together. As we walk together, we are discerning what the Spirit is saying to the Church.
“It will become incumbent of us as we journey forward to think how we make synodality a living characteristic of each of our parish communities.
“We can only do that as we call each one who belongs in those communities into active listening so that our parish communities before circles of listening and places of deep conversation in which people experience a sense of inclusion and belonging and recognising their identity as disciples.”
Before the keynote address, attendees were asked to reflect on three questions in a way of fellowship and networking.
Fr Frank Brennan SJ, a Jesuit priest and CEO of Catholic Social Services Australia, then addressed the conference as the keynote speaker.
Fr Frank’s presentation discussed how we can renew our pastoral structures to draw and give life in the post-Royal Commission Church in Australia and in what ways those in ministry need to move forward in order to serve the mission of Christ.
“My perspectives will be quite different from some of yours, and that’s fine because one of the great things about the Catholic Church is that we have this plurality of experiences and we can reflect on those experiences in light of our traditions, the scriptures and our papal teachings,” Fr Frank said.
“We are not going to build an international situation of tolerance and peace unless we build it locally. What is our commitment in our neck of the woods to build a culture of tolerance and of living together in peace?
“How are we to give women their place at the table when they cannot preside at the Eucharist?
“How can we ensure that our church is more accountable and transparent and true to the gospel in the wake of the Royal Commission?
“What should be our approach to employment of LGBTIQ staff and to pastoral care of LGBTIQ parishioners in the wake of the same sex marriage debate?
“How are we to assure Indigenous Australians their place at the table when governments make laws and policies impacting especially on them and their heritage?
“How can we make our community more welcome and open to refugees, asylum seekers and new migrants?
“What should we be drawing from Pope Francis to animate our parishes about stewardship of the environment, responsibility for the poor, spiritual contentment in an age of disruption and getting the mix right of truth, justice, love, mercy and joy?”
Stalls were available to all attendees from ministries across the state, including the Institute for Mission from the Diocese of Parramatta, Harvest Journeys and the Australian Catholic University.
After morning tea, attendees split up into smaller groups for their first workshop.
Workshops included ‘Supporting Muslim-Christian Dialogue’ by Rev Dr Patrick McInerney SSC, Director for the Columban Centre for Christian-Muslim Relations and ‘Young People and the Church’ by Christy Honeysett, National Liaison Office for the Youth Mission Team.
Following lunch, attendees returned to smaller groups for a secondary workshop.
Workshops included ‘What next for Plenary 2020’ by Lana Turvey-Collins, Facilitator for the Plenary Council 2020, and ‘Alpha – Encountering Jesus’ by international speaker Josh Angrisano.
In the afternoon, after the workshops, attendees had time to share their experience of the day in small groups and considered what could be taken back to their parishes and ministries.
An optional Mass and dinner were available to attendees at the conclusion of the conference.
Lisa Bright, Pastoral Associate of Mary, Queen of the Family Parish, Blacktown said that the highlight of the conference was the keynote address by Fr Frank.
“He spoke with such a genuine passion for all the areas of our world that we need to pay more attention to. He highlighted that every minister at the conference was the face of Christ in the Church and In whatever circumstance we find ourselves in and with whomever we are accompanying, we must always offer respect, dignity and justice.
“Fr Frank’s keynote address left me feeling empowered and encouraged to put our faith into action every single day in the days that can really make a difference in our parish communities.
“Each year the NAPPA Conference has grown to include more elements where we can learn and use in our own parishes.
“Even though we think we may not have time to go to Conferences such as this, they are vital for our own revitalisation, for our professional development and to ensure that as ministers of the Church, we are doing the best we can to be the face of Christ to all in this time and space in which live.”
Richard McMahon said he was delighted by the interest in this year’s conference, which lead it to be a sell-out event.
“I believe the increased engagement with our conference is testimony to the quality keynotes and workshops, and points to a hunger for people in pastoral ministry to network with others, share practical resources, and take time out to reflect upon their role.
“Pastoral ministry can be a tough and lonely road, so I was pleased that so many people through our day together felt affirmed and connected in their work and were re-energised to go back with new ideas and fresh enthusiasm to serve the mission of Jesus Christ.
“My advice to those thinking about coming next year is to get in early to avoid disappointment.”
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