Personal Formation during the time of pandemic

By Sr Grace Roclawska csfn, 8 July 2020
Participants in the Institute for Mission's Reflective Ministry program. Image: Supplied.


Was the Institute for Mission really closed?

When you open the Institute for Mission’s website, you will find some information telling you that ever since 30 March, the building in Blacktown has been closed due to the health restrictions in this time of COVID-19.

Like many others’ plans, ours too were affected during the pandemic, but with considerable quick development in digital communications, including some tech coaching for participants, we’ve been able to remain very active. One key such channel of activity has been the Reflective Ministry program in which I was privileged to keep accompanying all registered participants in an online version of Part 1 – Personal Formation.

One of youngest participants, Alicja from Young Christian Workers, responded with a great enthusiasm to the news that we will go ahead with the program: “I’m so happy and excited. Thank you so much to everyone in the IFM team for continuing with their programs and finding ways to connect with others in the current circumstances of COVID-19,” she said.

What was offered and how?

Three of our amazing presenters: Sr Patty Andrew OSU, Br Aengus Kavanagh fsp and Fr Patrick McInerney took up the challenge of recording their sessions. with the professional skills of Anthony, the IFM’s Media Creative, the videos were transformed into quality packages that participants engaged with and reflected on at their leisure.

One of the speakers offered the narrated slides as another way of presenting the richness of his materials.

Our first three sessions focused on Spirituality as a tool in deepening the personal formation. “I found the video so inspiring and very peaceful to watch. Sr Patty’s understanding of spirituality and the importance it has in our life was very moving and thought provoking” Paula from Mary Queen of the Family Parish, Blacktown, said.

Josephine and Allan from St Nicholas of Myra Parish, Penrith, added, “the online version allowed us to pause, reflect and share at our own pace. However, we also miss hearing the sharing the reflection of others as we learn from them as well.”

In response to such feedback, we started weekly Zoom sharing sessions, encouraging reflections on the previous week’s materials. At the end of each segment, we invited each presenter to participate in a Q&A Zoom session.

Sr Patty, who presented on Spirituality was both generous in sharing her knowledge and acknowledging our efforts. “You are keeping focused on what is constant and essential in our lives – deepening our relationship with the One who is over all and in all,” she said.

The second segment of the Reflective Ministry program focused on Interpersonal Skills. Tutis, a parishioner from The Good Shepherd Parish, Plumpton, explained, “I have learnt a great deal of knowledge about interpersonal communication skills in these 3 sessions with Br Aengus and, as a result, hopefully will come away learning how to be a better person and a good communicator.”

Br Aengus, the presenter of the three sessions (which were recorded in his convent by the fellow brother Stephen Sweetman), thanked all of us by saying “I really enjoyed working with you this year. Challenging, but truly great.”

The last three sessions, presented by Fr Patrick, challenged our way of thinking about the Mission of the church and our participation in this mission in a practical way of engaging in Interreligious Dialogue.

“I absolutely enjoyed all three talks. Coming from a multicultural background – I do agree we need to have a dialogue with people of other faiths. It’s eye opening to know that the church [is] initiating dialogue with people of other faiths. [These sessions answered] a lot of questions on interreligious dialogue and how to work with other people of faith collaboratively and respectfully towards a common goal or issue of concern,” Tutis said.

Carol, from the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, was inspired by Fr Patrick’s sessions.

“A few years ago, I was told by a person belonging to another Christian denomination that ‘all Muslims were going to hell because they were not saved through Jesus Christ’. I was shocked at the time by this. It is a relief to know that the Church (since Vatican II) does not see it like this anymore. Hearing Fr Patrick speak about salvation beyond the Church was an inspiring moment for me. God’s ‘plan’ is salvation for all, not just for those of the Christian faith. And God’s work beyond the Church is all encompassing of all of creation. Wow that is awesome to me! Nothing is bigger than this, not even the Church!” she said.

The Church is us and our personal journey does not stop under any circumstances. God speaks to our hearts always, even in ways we can or sometimes cannot even imagine.

I learnt this by accompanying participants on their personal journey through the Reflective Ministry program this year.

What’s next? Is Institute for Mission open now?

Yes, we are here for you. Both face-to-face and online. Adhering to government restrictions, we will resume our planned activities and continue inviting you to participate in them. Mission and Word – Part 2 of Reflective Ministry program – starts in August.

Part 1 is not a prerequisite in order to register for Part 2. So, don’t miss out! There are only a few spots left for in-class participation, however, registration is available to participate online. Register here:

Sr Grace Roclawska csfn is the Program and Engagement Representative at the Institute for Mission.


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