The Church of Maitland-Newcastle is centred on Christ, the Cornerstone, and seeks always to live as a community of people who reach out and serve
In the pages that follow we explore the first ‘Foundation’ of our life and mission as the church of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.
Our Story takes us to the source of our identity in the early church where Jesus disciple were described as sharing their resources and caring for all those in need.
Foundational Statements remind us of what should characterise communities who are committed to Jesus’ mission of taking to the whole world the Good News of God’s love.
Concerns summarise the issues raised by diocesan respondents to the Plenary Council Listening and Dialogue Session as well as those who submitted written responses at the first session of our Diocesan Synod in November 2019.
Recommendations suggest what could be done to address the issues raised in the preceding section. In many cases they will involve personal and communal conversion and/or actions at local community level.
Diocesan respondents to the Plenary Council and Synod Listening and Dialogue recognised the need for us as a Church to look at ways of raising awareness about significant social issues, of collaborating with other social justice-minded groups, of reaching out to the poor and needy, those suffering isolation, loneliness, discrimination and mental health issues, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, homeless people, people with a disability, gender diverse people, those of other cultures and faiths, as well as all families, young people, the elderly, and volunteers.
Some respondents called for our Church communities to be a more visible presence both at local level and diocesan level in addressing social issues such as the gap between rich and poor, the care for creation, the defence of human rights and religious freedom, and the physical and spiritual needs of those on the margins.
Some called for the need to recognise, support, and collaborate with Catholic health, aged-care, and social services organisations.
At Pentecost the Holy Spirit thrust the apostles out of a small room. They evangelised, proclaiming Christ’s death and resurrection, bringing many to discipleship in the new-born Christian community.
They kept on testifying to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus with great power, with the result that ‘the numbers of men and women who came to believe in the Lord increased steadily.’
One of their first acts addressed a scandal within. Certain widows were neglected and starving. The infant community reached out to them, appointing seven ‘deacons’ to care for their needs
Two of the seven are reported immediately on mission, unable to be constrained to table service. They boldly and effectively declared the message near and far. Philip, ‘proclaimed the Good News in every town as far as Caesarea’. ‘The word of God continued to spread and to gain followers.’
Peter, compelled by the Holy Spirit, preached to pagans — the Roman centurion, Cornelius, and his household — and had them baptised in the name of Jesus Christ.
Paul, tireless apostle to the gentiles, dominated the mission of the early church. ‘Woe to me if I do not tell the good news’ he would say. ‘The love of Christ compels me.’ His missionary outreach extended to Rome. The commission to make disciples of all the nations was symbolically fulfilled.
God’s mission of love was embodied in his Son. Jesus’ mission to all is embodied in his Church.
The coming of Christ’s church to the first-nation people of the Hunter and the Manning two hundred years ago was not the good news Christ would have it be. Dispossession and dehumanising was the norm. Little effort was made to evangelise or reach out in a humane or Christian way.
With the passing of time outreach in charity and justice has been the prominent face of mission. It found expression in the corporal works of mercy, in educating the poor and caring for the sick and suffering. It was an evangelisation based on actions speaking louder than words.
Today our diocese evangelises through the good works of the St Vincent de Paul Society; through outreach to the needy by CatholicCare; through care of the sick, the elderly, the dying, in hospitals, nursing homes and hospice. It evangelises through chaplaincies to seafarers and prisoners.
Perhaps most effective is the evangelisation by those who live their faith attractively in everyday encounters and dare to personally accompany seekers on their journey. Good listening, along with words and deeds of understanding, acceptance and affirmation, are Good News to those in need.
Evangelisation is a work of attraction. It draws people to Jesus the way he did — by compelling personal integrity and caring manner, by a vision of wholeness matching the longings of the heart. Joyful and grateful disciples, we can bring others to Jesus in the embrace of his community.
We regard every individual as having equal dignity and worth and because we believe that the Spirit is at work throughout the world, we respect those whose beliefs differ from our own.
If I encounter a person sleeping outdoors on a cold night, I can view him or her as an annoyance…a problem for politicians to sort out, or even a piece of refuse cluttering a public space. Or I can respond with faith and charity, and see in this person a human being with a dignity identical to my own … an image of God. (Pope Francis Rejoice and Be Glad 98).
Christ has no body now on earth but yours; no hands but yours; no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which the compassion of Christ must look out on the world. Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good. Yours are the hands with which he is to bless his people. (St Teresa of Avila 1515-1582).
We acknowledge and seek to be enriched by the history and wisdom of Indigenous peoples while acknowledging that reconciliation for past injustices remains a goal rather than an achievement.
The Church in Australia will not be fully the Church that Jesus wants her to be until you have made your contribution to her life and until that contribution has been joyfully received by others. (Pope John Paul II speaking to Aboriginal people in 1986 NT).
To achieve an authentic Catholic Church in Australia, the gifts of perseverance, culture and spirituality of First Nations Catholics should be fully embraced. This goal can be achieved through education, participation in decision-making and a comprehensive commitment to fostering mutual respect between First Nations and non-Indigenous Catholics. (The Light from the Southern Cross p 74 )
Because we believe that the Spirit is at work throughout the world, we respect those whose beliefs differ from our own, and seek to deepen our bonds with them.
The pluralism and the diversity of religions, colour, sex, race and language are willed by God in his wisdom, through which he created human beings. (From a document on human fraternity signed by Pope Francis and Sheikh Ahmad el-Tayeb)
The strength of what unites all of us as Christians is supremely important. We can be so attentive to what divides us that at times we no longer appreciate or value what unites us. (Pope Francis, Beloved Amazon 108).
We acknowledge all we have and enjoy as gifts from God and accept the responsibility to care for, nurture and share those gifts.
Given the state of our planet, given the climate change we already experience, given the devastating loss of species, given the terrible burden of ecological disaster on the poorest people of earth, I think Pope Francis’s Laudato Si’ may well be the most important church document of the twenty-first century. (Denis Edwards, Deep Incarnation: God’s Redemptive Suffering with Creatures, 2019, p 128).
PUTTING GOSPEL VALUES IN ACTION
MO 1.1 That any missionary or outreach activity be grounded in a personal encounter with Jesus Christ and the desire to build genuine relationships within our communities.
MO 1.2 That evangelisation be given priority through setting a vision and broad strategy within our Diocese, appropriately resourced with funds and personnel.
MO 2.1 That in the spirit of the vision of Many Parts One Body One Mission we explore ways to create localised collaborative hubs that would provide a holistic caring response to social needs.
MO 2.2 That national and diocesan structures research and advocate on matters of social justice, working in dialogue with others across society as well as with all parts of the Church.
CARE OF CREATION
MO 2.3 That our diocesan community undertakes actions that demonstrate our commitment to integral ecology and ecological conversion as articulated in Laudato si’ and other Catholic social teaching.
MO 2.4 That across the Diocese we connect with community environmental groups and participate in activities supporting education, research, and advocacy around the environment.
MO 2.5 That the Diocese reviews our environmental footprint and impact with a view to educating, reporting, improving, leading, and modelling.
ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER PEOPLE
MO 3.1 That our Diocese listens to and embraces the spiritual, ecological, and cultural wisdom of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
MO 3.2 That our Diocese, in consultation and partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Ministry and the wider community, commits to developing tangible mechanisms to embed their rich culture and spirituality in the life of the Church.
THOSE OF OTHER CULTURES
MO 3.3 That we acknowledge, welcome, support and embrace the various cultural groups that make up our local Catholic Church.
MO 3.4 That our communities create mutual authentic opportunities for the sharing of cultures.
ECUMENICAL AND INTERFAITH RELATIONS
MO 3.5 That we continue to resource and support the work and outreach of the Ecumenical and Interfaith Council and that parishes are encouraged to connect with other Christian denominations and Faith traditions in their local areas.
MO 3.6 That we collaborate and stand in solidarity with other faith traditions on social issues.
MISSION TO YOUNG AND OLD
MO 3.7 That we engage with young people, recognising the gifts they bring and together reimagine the Church’s ministry to them.
MO 3.8 That parishes be places where the young and the old are welcomed, accompanied, encouraged to lead, supported, and embraced to feel valued and wanted.
MO 3.9 That initiatives to animate the young and the old, provided in other dioceses, communities, and other faith groups be explored.
PEOPLE ON THE MARGINS
MO 3.10 That parishes and the agencies of the Diocese embrace the teachings of Pope Francis regarding those on the periphery.
CATHOLIC HEALTH, AGED-CARE AND SOCIAL SERVICES
MO 4.1 That the Diocese appreciates the vital contribution of Catholic health, aged-care and social services and commits itself to supporting their work.
MO 4.2 That all parts of the Diocese deepen their dialogue with each other to ensure all work together and celebrate service to the community, love of God, love of neighbour, generosity of spirit and justice.
MO 5.1 That our tools of communicating internally and externally seek to promote God’s mission through the good works of the Church.
MO 5.2 That we tell stories of our mission and outreach through a variety of mediums to effectively promote the quality outcomes of various services in our Diocese – community, education, health, social services, early childhood, aged-care.
Re-wording of 2.1
MO 2.1 – That we explore way to create localised collaborative hubs that would provide a holistic caring response to social needs. – Adopted
Re-wording of 3.10
MO 3.10 – That parishes and agencies of the diocese embrace the teachings of Pope Francis regarding those on the margins, especially the poor, and reach out to all those suffering as a result of “the social ills of inequality, injustice and exclusion that afflict so many” (Pope Francis, 30 Sep 2020) – Adopted