Parish secretaries called to ‘shema’ during Christmas Reflection Day

By Carmel Fenton, 18 December 2019
Parish Secretaries and Parish Staff members pose for a photograph during the Parish Staff Christmas Reflection Day and Lunch at St Joseph's Baulkham Hills. Image: Diocese of Parramatta.


On Tuesday, 10 December, I gathered with other parish secretaries and teams together with some Chancery staff at St Joseph’s Spirituality Centre, Baulkham Hills, to take some time to reflect on our ministry within the Diocese of Parramatta.

Sr Grace Roclawska csfn from the Diocese of Parramatta’s Institute for Mission guided us through the day in her gentle style combined with humour.

The morning began with a fun activity of finding the meaning of our names. As our names are possibly the main way people identify us, it was interesting to learn the origins of people’s names and if they actually suited the person. Later in the morning there was an opportunity for us to reflect on how we look after ourselves.

As a large part of the ministry of those present involves listening, time was given to think about listening. Sr Grace guided us through the principles of reflective listening and gave examples of how we may use these principles without realising it, particularly when taking phone calls. The steps of being attentive, to ask open-ended and probing questions, to request clarification and paraphrase while being attuned to and reflect feelings of the caller and then summarise the phone call can often happen in many calls during the day.

We were then introduced to the Hebrew word ‘shema’. The word ‘shema’ is very common in the Hebrew Bible. But it means more than just using our ears to listen. It can mean to pay attention to or focus on. It can also mean to respond to what you hear, i.e. to listen and obey. In Hebrew, listening and doing are two sides of the same coin. We can hear but we may not always listen. Listening, in the Bible, is about giving respect to the one speaking and doing what they say. Real listening takes real effort and action. It links closely to the rule of St Benedict to listen and attend with the ear of your heart.

Fr Chris de Souza, Vicar General and Episcopal Vicar for Education and Formation, Diocese of Parramatta, celebrated Mass for us. He spoke of the importance of allowing ourselves time to listen to what God is trying to say to us. He reminded us that when we read the words being proclaimed during liturgies, it may not allow the opportunity for us to really listen to the words and how God is speaking to us through them – even those readings we may have heard many times. Depending on what is happening in our lives, the message might be different each time if we allow ourselves the times to listen.

Both Sr Grace and Fr Chris spoke of the season of Advent and how it is a season of hope. It’s time to prepare ourselves and our homes as we await to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

I found the day a very fruitful end to what has been a busy year for all that attended.

Carmel Fenton is the Pastoral Associate at Sacred Heart Parish, Luddenham-Warragamba.

View images from the Parish Staff Christmas Reflection Day here or below.

Parish Secretaries and Administrative Employees Christmas Reflection Day

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