Unity and shared dreams amongst new Interfaith Commission

By Raimie Caramancion, 27 September 2022
Members of the Diocese of Parramatta Interfaith Commission are seen during their Commissioning Mass at St Patrick's Cathedral, Parramatta. Image: Diocese of Parramatta


We all know someone who comes from a different upbringing, particularly another religion. They may be our friends, family, work colleagues or classmates. In the Diocese of Parramatta, we value these relationships, faith conversations and connections between all kinds of faith. This is the beauty of interreligious dialogue.

On Sunday 18 September 2022 at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Parramatta, Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, celebrated and commissioned 13 passionate Catholics into the Diocesan Interfaith Commission to lead and continue the way to deeper interfaith dialogue and connection.

In the spirit of gratitude, Bishop Vincent, in his homily, acknowledged the need in our world for people to have mutual understanding, respect, and cooperation for the greater good of all. He challenged all of us not to be like the ‘dishonest’, ‘self-entitled’ steward in the Sunday Gospel (Lk 16:1-3). Rather, we are to reignite our public responsibility as disciples of Jesus Christ and to push past the political and religious divide in our incredibly diverse country.

Bishop Vincent referenced Pope Francis who powerfully said, “I don’t renounce my faith if I speak with the faith of someone else, rather, I make my faith known because I speak to others, and I listen to them.”

RELATED: ‘Dear friends’ – Bishop Vincent’s Homily from 18 September 2022

Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, blesses the members of the Diocese of Parramatta Interfaith Commission during Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

After the homily, Bishop Vincent prayed over the Interfaith Commission, sending them on behalf of the diocese “to strengthen the social fabric of Western Sydney through interfaith engagement.”

The Interfaith Commission consists of 13 diverse and well-connected members to diocesan, ecumenical and interfaith networks. Led by Debbie Grigson, Chair of the Commission, and Deacon Michael Tan, Deputy Chair, the Commission meets every six weeks at the Bishop Bede Heather Centre in Blacktown.

The focus of the Commission will be on the promotion and understanding of interfaith dialogue through conversations, activities, presentations, and resources to encourage meaningful encounters with believers from other religions. These members are committed to building connections and awareness, hoping to inspire and facilitate more interreligious opportunities throughout the Diocese of Parramatta.

(L-R) Members of the Diocese of Parramatta Interfaith Commission Marilena Len Cruz, Fr Kevin Medilo SM, Ryan Epondulan, Deacon Michael Tan (Deputy chair), Irene Adamson, Mike Yates, Fr Michael Hardie, Bishop Vincent Long, Debbie Grigson (Chair), Kate Xavier, Lorraine Murphy, Fr Patrick McInerney, Anthony Maher and Alicja Borciuch (Secretary). Not pictured is Sr. Colleen Foley. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

“I believe the message is all about respect for people of all other faiths – which we are all called to.” Lorraine Murphy, one of the Interfaith Commission members shared, “Interfaith dialogue doesn’t hinder our faith, actually the dialogue is enriching and it has even helped me articulate and understand the Catholic faith more.”

Fr Kevin Medilo SM, parish priest of St Andrew the Apostle Parish, Marayong, and Interfaith Commission member, recounted his passion for interfaith connection stemming from 11 years of priestly ministry in Thailand. He described, “serving in a country that was 94% Buddhist, less than 1% Catholic and 1.5% Christian, there were lots of people I encountered from different faiths. It taught me a lot.”

When asked what was coming up next, Kate Xavier and Fr Patrick McInerney from the Interfaith Commission said they were out in the next week giving a presentation to empower and encourage interfaith dialogue in school settings.

Members of the Diocese of Parramatta Interfaith Commission are seen during their Commissioning Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

Len Cruz, also from the Interfaith Commission and attends formation and social justice activities across the Diocese, is a witness of the power of presence. Len said, “I worked 6 years in Nigeria and experienced people of different beliefs there… I believe the role of our Interfaith Commission is to go out, share our faith, listen, be aware and be with other believers too.” She reminisced her first experience of attending the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and Mosque in Marsden Park, “it was so beautiful… I didn’t know the variety and customs of their faith until I saw it for myself.” Len continued to share her experience of the Sikh community and their generous hospitality as so memorable that it has reflected in the way she is hospitable and welcoming of others in Catholic events.

This is just the beginning of many opportunities to learn and grow together in our Diocese in the area of interreligious understanding, connection and collaboration. Let us keep the Interfaith Commission in our prayers, as Bishop Vincent’s commissioning words hope for them:
May their hearts be open

to all the peoples and nations of the earth.

May they recognise the goodness and beauty

that you have sown in each of us,

and thus forge bonds of unity, common projects,

and shared dreams.

Details of future opportunities to discuss and attend facilitated interreligious events will be promoted on the Diocese of Parramatta social media pages.

You can read about previous events and resources such as the Interfaith Iftar Dinner on 22 April 2022; The Columban Centre for Christian-Muslim Relations; Article on Nostra Aetate (1965).

Also, you can watch this 6-minute video featuring Debbie and Deacon Michael for more information.

To learn more or to get in touch with the Diocese of Parramatta’s Interfaith Commission, email diocese@parracatholic.org.

View images from the Commissioning Mass of the Diocese of Parramatta Interfaith Commission here or below.



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