Together in Faith: Developing Our Pastoral Plan 

By Mary Brazell, 26 June 2024
Participants in discussion during a Diocesan Think Tank session at St Michael's Church, Parish of Baulkham Hills. Image: Diocese of Parramatta


In the next step of our synodal journey, hundreds of people across the Diocese of Parramatta have given feedback and practical ideas for the development of a new pastoral plan for the Diocese. 

Participating in collaborative ‘Think Tank’ sessions at both a local and Diocesan level, members of our faith communities responded to the resolutions affirmed at the first Diocesan Synod for Parramatta in October last year, as well as examining the draft version of the ‘Diocesan Plan for a Synodal Church’. 

Over 140 people including clergy, religious men and women, lay leaders, and community members participated in the Diocesan Think Tank sessions. The six themes of the Synod decrees – An Inclusive and Welcoming Church; A Humble and Healing Church; A Listening Church; A Church Renewed in Spirit and Prayer; A Church that Reaches to the Margins and A Church Walking Together—served as the pillars guiding these discussions. 

Fr Paul Roberts, Parish Priest of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish, Greystanes, hosted the first Diocesan Think Tank session, which saw almost 40 people in attendance. He said that one of the key things the process highlighted is “the need for us to dig down from the ‘resolutions’ not firstly to answers, but to really faithfully explore the relevant questions that may still be hidden in the resolutions.” 

“This kind of faithfully working through of resolutions by way of further questions and learning, may lead us to surprising decisions and actions.” 

Participants in discussion during a Diocesan Plan Think Tank session at Holy Family Parish, Emerton. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

Kerry Giumelli, a parishioner at St Patrick’s Cathedral Parish, Parramatta, who attended three of the six Diocesan Think Tanks, found the process to be worthwhile and enabled an opportunity to more deeply examine how the Synod resolutions can come to life in our diocese and parish communities.  

“Through reflecting, discussion and listening, each session highlighted the practical, hands-on ways that we as the Church in Parramatta can respond to a new way of being Church to each other,” she said. 

Cathy and Chris Larkin both attended five out of six sessions and were grateful for the opportunities to share their hopes and desires for the Diocesan community. 

“Participating in the Diocesan Think Tanks was a wonderful opportunity to see first-hand the range of issues that exist across the diocese and the deep commitment of so many people with a passion to address them,” said Cathy, a parishioner of Holy Family Parish, Mt Druitt, and member of the Diocesan Synod. 

“The process enabled genuine reflection, discernment, conversation, and feedback, which I’m sure will bear fruit in the ongoing formulation of the Diocesan Plan. Can’t wait to see the final product!”  

Participants in discussion during a Diocesan Think Tank session at St Michael’s Church, Parish of Baulkham Hills. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

Chris, a parishioner of Good Shepherd Parish, Plumpton, said, “One of the most empowering aspects of the synodal experience for me was in the ‘nuts and bolts’ work of sitting around a table with four brother and sister Catholics, often with experiences and perspectives quite different from my own, and to find how often and how readily we were able to come to a shared understanding of our faith and a common expression of our desires and hopes for the Catholic faith community in the Diocese of Parramatta.” 

Josie Monteleone, a primary school teacher and parishioner of Corpus Christi Parish, Cranebrook, said that the Think Tank sessions gave her new avenues to reach out to other members of the community to spread God’s Word.  

“The Synodal process has given me an opportunity to find a renewed understanding of the impact God has on the lives of those who are faith filled and it also has allowed me to feel comfortable to ask questions of our faith practices.  

“I believe a Synodal Church will provide a framework on how to embrace the diversity of God’s children and I’m looking forward to the future.” 

Participants in discussion during a Diocesan Think Tank session at St Oliver Plunkett Parish, Harris Park. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

Sr Ailsa Mackinnon, Chancellor for Ministries, noted the significant participation in the development of the Diocesan Plan: “The momentum created by participating in the recent Synod has given us energy to move forward in a synodal manner. To me, it’s a sure sign of the presence of the Spirit stirring among the people of God.” 

The outcomes of these discussions, held at both local and Diocesan levels, will be instrumental in shaping the final version of the Diocesan Plan, as it feeds back to the Writing Group. The Diocesan Plan for a Synodal Church will be launched at the Diocesan Gathering on Saturday 10 August at the Western Sydney Conference Centre in Penrith. 

Keep up to date with the next stages of the Diocesan Plan ahead of the Diocesan Gathering on the Diocesan website.


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