Posted on 24 February 2016
By Rev Paul Roberts
“How can you forgive this arsonist?” This was a challenging question asked of Rev John Boyle in 1996 when he was Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral in Parramatta.
On behalf of Bishop Bede Heather, Fr John had just returned from a prison visit to offer forgiveness to the man who burned down the Cathedral. Some Catholic people weren’t ready for this gesture so early in the piece. Some were never prepared to consider it.
Such was the reflection Mons John Boyle used on 28 January this year to begin his homily at the Mass of graduation and commissioning for the 55 people who had completed year-long programs in theology and pastoral formation at our Diocese’s Institute for Mission (IFM) at Blacktown.
He developed his thoughts from there, affirming the central importance of faith development and active lay leadership, in influencing the missionary challenge for the people who are Church, to more and more become a conduit of difference, of mercy and of alternative values in and for the world.
A further 100-200 family and friends along with several priests of our parishes attended the special evening to celebrate with the large group that had completed the programs.
After the beautiful liturgy, the music ministry for which was generously provided by the 2Celebrate choir of Mary, Queen of the Family Parish, Blacktown, the IFM team hosted a ceremony and supper to commend and encourage those being commissioned.
An excellent musical ensemble of young adults from Mary Immaculate Parish, Quakers Hill, provided background entertainment and atmosphere.
Being held at Mary Immaculate Parish was an example of the IFM’s priority to physically have some of its offerings and activities in parish communities, the support for which is a central reason for its existence, not only at its Blacktown centre.
The IFM gives its energy to various once-off formative experiences and mini-programs, along with resources and events for the Diocese.
The two programs from which participants were honoured at this special evening, however, run right across the year. As such, they provide an opportunity for participants to take significant steps to further their faith, insights and capacity for ministry leadership and mission.
Acknowledgement was given at the graduation/commissioning night to some associates of the IFM who generously contribute their time and talents to presentations and mentoring.
Cecilia Zammit, Rev Wim Hoekstra, Rev Paul Slyney and Daniel Ang are treasured associates. New mentors in 2015 were Paul Worthington and David Bourne.
Offering small group processing support were Margaret Wiseman, Bronwyn Dollin, Angel Penano and Fran Jackson.
The IFM’s logo and work
The new logo of the IFM is a cog that invites our connection. It recognises that it is God’s mission into which we are all invited.
For us Catholic Christians, that connection has a sacramental centre and so you’ll notice that the centre of the logo doubles with the appearance of the Blessed Sacrament at Mass or in a time of adoration.
And you’ll notice the cross of Christ as central. As well you can see some blank lines, some boundaries, representing the boundaries across which the very meaning of ‘mission’ calls us.
The boundaries might be across hearts and minds, across backgrounds and experiences, across the street or parish or city, or indeed across the world.
As Pope Benedict XVI said: “Mission is a workshop that has room for all!” This catchy phrase recognises our variety of vocational responses in faith and mission and makes priority for our own learning, growing and receiving of grace.
It recognises that as we grow in participation in God’s mission, it isn’t about having the answers top down. Rather, it’s about entering into the life of the world and learning to more and more recognise God’s presence there; God’s presence in others, in ourselves and in life’s situations, calling us to engage with that presence and develop as responders in grace.
In brief, these are some of the driving principles of the IFM’s work for faith formation in our Diocese.
Currently, among the IFM’s high priorities are initiatives for the Year of Mercy, development of a further mini-program of spiritualty sessions for parishes, an extension program and network for younger adult leaders across the Diocese and a dramatically increased move into online resourcing and social media engagement.
To view a gallery of photos from the evening, click here
Rev Paul Roberts is the Director of the Institute for Mission.