Submission feedback

Weekly Submissions

Note: Submissions have been de-identified and individual submissions have been recorded, but are removed from public viewing.

Others

We know and believe that all people are of equal value and highly valued by God and chosen to build his Kingdom. How well do we as a Church full of Christian people accept this call and act on this calling in a practical way?
Does the local community know what we stand for and what we hope to achieve as a Church? If not, how do we make this known to the wider community, so everyone knows what we believe in and how we want to help all those in need. We are all part of one community having a concern and responsibility for one another.
The Church needs to be open to a new way of doing things whilst we maintain our catholic rites and rituals. We all need to accept people where they are in their faith and in their life and be ready and willing to help whenever and wherever possible.
We need to encourage each other to work with and surrender to the power of the Holy Spirit and learn to act in areas that we are unable.
We need to learn way to better connect with young people, families, refugees, vulnerable people etc. and create more inclusive and contemporary spaces for them and their families.
We need to be more informed and encourage each other to learn about how to be the hands and feet of God. We need to all work together, with our whole church community to show who Jesus is through our words and actions.
We need to look on the mistakes of our past, openly look at the impact we are having on our local communities (both strengths and weaknesses) and work towards a brighter future. A future where we all move forward together with a sense of responsibility and enthusiasm.


Primary-school

The shared wisdom of the group concluded that as primary school teachers we continue Jesus’ mission here at school. We believe we are part of the change and we are here to prove that the overwhelming majority of Catholics are good people who do good works.

Parishes

The identity of all Catholics, not just priests, has been damaged, however, I don’t recall the hierarchy ever really apologising to us, the church, for their actions and the effect it has had on our identity. Some will not step inside a church again due to the damage done – they still believe in God, but not the man-made constructs of the church, which have obviously failed.
I can’t say that our mass service is greatly welcoming when you really observe its operation. It’s the same singer(s), readers, altar servers, gift bearers, men (usually) taking the plate around. Asking for volunteers doesn’t work – shy/new parishioners often don’t want to rock the status quo, we need to be more direct in asking people to play a part. Most churches appear to have a team whose membership is quite exclusive and cliquey, and seemingly never open for renewal/new members. A parish team member has been heard to brag about being in the ‘in group’ – even though it was said in some jest, there was some smugness in the way it was said.
Having a ‘cantor’ is not inclusive for the congregation. Why do we need to have choirs and people singing into microphones (sometimes this includes priests) over the top of the congregation – are our voices not good enough to be heard? Plus, it usually means it’s the same person week in, week out that is doing the psalm. This practise is very selective and unwelcoming, especially during COVID when only the cantor is singing – this is certainly the most un-inclusive thing I have seen lately.
The church is ageist – it makes such a fuss of the attendance of young, traditional families, yet ignores the fact that most of us (at many parishes) do not fit this demographic.

Other-organisations

Catholic Charismatic Renewal
1. We need to arm ourselves before we can be ready to spread the good news- anointing of the Holy spirit, fasting, repentance, expect and be ready for obstacles and hardship. – Has the Church lost it’s focus of asceticism? Can it get that focus back?

2. To stay focussed on Jesus in this time of hardship and temptation rather than rely on our own strength. The call to increase our faith that the Lord will make us ready in His own way when we focus and trust in Him.

3. Jesus and His Word are constant and this is what we continuously need to come back to in our journey and mission.

4. The will of God is to be tested in us as it was in all the prophets. All of this is to discern the will of the Father in our lives so we can be prepared.

5. Finally we need the strength of community like prayer groups, Lenten groups and other small groups to help us grow in mission. We need God and we need each other.

Parishes

Please pass on our congratulations and thanks to all who have contributed  to the production of the wonderful Lenten Reflection Books.
There is obviously a prodigious amount of work involved but the result has been wonderful.
It has been of great assistance to us in facilitating the Lenten reflections.

Kind regards to all,
Mal and Pam Melvey

Parishes

The following is a synopsis of people’s reflections from our group.
Reflecting often, instead of “doing”; all the time.
Helping others with their own wilderness experience,  e,g. Recovered alcoholics supporting other alcoholics
Take labels off religious groups, focus on Jesus
Accept people lovingly by demonstrating compassion
Our rituals can actually be a barrier to people seeking God 

Parishes

Our Reflection Group highlighted the themes:
JOY: as bearers of the good news, the gospel message, we should be people of great joy
HOPE: We are strengthened by God’s presence in our lives, a source of unfailing hope.
INCLUSIVITY: We should welcome all, as Christ did. No-one should ever be excluded.
COMMUNITY: We are a pilgrim people, the people of God. Small communities within parishes may foster a greater sense of community 

Parishes

1. What resonated – Welcoming resonated strongly with everyone. Shared how being made welcome created a sense of belonging. The use of name tags and newsletters to keep in touch.
2. What challenged – To reach out to others – especially the lonely and marginalised. Greater use of programmes such as Alpha and family groups to bring people together in a  non-threatening environment.
3 What is the invitation? Our Parish consisting of two worship spaces has experienced much discord and upheaval. There is an invitation to move from the self-limiting, dormant to a parish that looks outward in Mission where ALL are welcomed and included into OUR family.

Others

Week 1 IDENTITY and COMMUNITY: from A Parish Lenten Group.   RS 22/2/2021 10.00am

How experienced the group  –
Cross currents of ideas – Lent & Synod
The thought and effort that has gone into the statements and booklet

Name the shared wisdom of the group –
The Spirit of change
Need to open up and change
The church has to change
We have to change – the problem is us
Is the problem all about the priests?

Australian church needs to grow up, not just importing priests as has happened years ago
Conflict – control culture
Deep hurt and anger at clericalism and misogyny
‘Kleenex’ approach to volunteers – use and throw away
Need to respect & care for those who have labored in the vineyard & not be a throw away Church – Charity begins at home
What would happen if all women downed tools?

Tensions between pre-2000 people / millennial people
The lesson of 30 years trying and not bringing people to church
Need to meditate on change so as not to throw out the baby with the bath water
Diversity of groups
Be welcoming at Mass / no one spoke to the visitor/stranger at Mass
Struck by people not in church
Accessibility for all – welcoming and inclusive
Reach out and invite people

Focus on Jesus, his love &  his joy
Let people say what they want
How to relate to children
Focus on unity – the natural environment here:  Hunter/Manning not Maitland/Newcastle

Parishes

Reflections for week 1 Identity & Community 25th Feb 2021
Chisholm Region

Some concerns raised:
‘Learning how’ to listen to the Holy Spirit in our daily lives
Women having a voice
Rules &  regulations of our church getting in the road of young Catholics being part of the community
Need to look at structure of church happenings & teachings & keep it simple & in language that can be understood & real life related

The ‘WE’ space put forward
Building community vital to allowing all folk to feel they belong
We need to reach out at every opportunity
Small groups in the home to learn more about our faith, to know people at a deeper level, to see the needs of community & ways of helping others – a format for guidance & inspiration needed

Like Jesus in Mark’s gospel passage, we’re all on a journey.
How can we help people living ordinary lives know they are part of God’s family, that they are loved?

Can we look at practical ways to help the community feel loved & of value.

Also, with diversity of cultures we need to look at ways in order to learn from one another?

Spiritual Director

How each of us experienced the group
– Good pre-reading materials – the importance of OWNING our story with all its imperfections
– Hard to know how to work in a zoom session – not natural, initially felt awkward but OK later
– Happy how it was conducted, a challenge & a fantastic experience
– Learning how to stop and listen;  session was a godsend
– Enjoyed the sharing & what people have brought to it
– Leadership tonight good & the respect we had for each others opinions
– The value of the group sharing
– Coming together – a community of communities – develop & support this
– Support for the Contemplative Dialogue methodology was enthusiastic and the group felt it was a clearly explained and overall a good experience – collective wisdom expressed and we all listened more contemplatively
– The group expressed a sense of hope for the Synod Lenten Program and for our journeying into the future

Name the shared wisdom of the group
– Anxious at the beginning but the methodology gave us a structure & that helped our interaction.
– Jesus clearly identifies with us and is a constant presence
– God the Father’s belovedness of Jesus – just as it is with us
– God is WITH us
– In the Gospel, Jesus’s experiencing his relationship with the Father is a great example to us of this same relationship of belovedness in our own experience of God but we need formation in how to notice God in our lives.  Any experience of God in our lives encourages us to reflect and understand and as a result change and grow and reach out to others and build the Kingdom of God.
– Commitment to Prayer / Scripture and multiple other ways is a priority in nurturing my relationship with God
– Being honest with ourselves
– Welcoming vulnerability
– Our need for listening to God and being in small welcoming groups in the parish
– The importance of belonging to a Mass Community – it urges us on, gives us encouragement.
– Small groups (community of communities) seems to have been naturally evolving over the last 20 yrs e.g. meditation groups / adult faith groups / View, Chew and Chat group / Lenten groups / Family Groups / spiritual direction ministry / Communion in the home groups etc but hoping for more obvious activity in youth ministries

Others

Our small group is satisfied with the direction the Spirit is leading us in this first paper, especially its emphasis on building relationships, inviting and encouraging people to contribute their gifts, forming small communities and imagining new ways of being parish – like the idea of a parish being a community of communities. Much of this is within the scope of us as individuals.

Parishes

We acknowledge that for many of us, our friends, family and our wider community do not share our experience of God. We love these people and see good (and God) in them. We want to stay connected with them because we find life in our relationships with them. As a Church community we need to support each other to maintain relationships with people within and beyond the Church.
We agreed that as individuals and as a Church we are frail humans who do not (and cannot) be perfect images of Christ.
We need to acknowledge that there is paradox and hypocrisy between the reality and the ideal of our attempts to be Christ in our world. People both within and outside the Church feel disappointed and disillusioned by this gap.
We see some of the structures of our Church as contributing to a culture of clericalism (disempowering lay people and isolating priests and others in authority). We call upon the Synod to change the structures to ensure that they support a more life-giving culture within our Diocese.

Parishes

1. honour/discern/embrace/recognise are all abstract – we need action. We need to quantify our intentions to grow and change. ie: ongoing financial assistance to SVdP chapters, affordable housing for refugees, refuges for DV victims
2. “no conditions to belonging” is not correct!! There are many conditions impacting on welcoming people of faith to participate in the life and rituals of the Catholic Church.

Parishes

Dear His Grace Bishop Bill,

Please find some discussions and response we had from our first week  (Synod Group) meeting

Community need to be educated the importance of Christian life  and its value.
Community need to be strengthened by forming small prayer groups and having regular meetings.
Encourage families and children to do daily family prayers
Encourage more youth in taking parts different roles in the Holy Eucharist that may bring them or inculcate them to be more active in church activities.
The wild beast in our society is the modern technology.  Many of us are actually too much on it and we may make use of the same technology to educate the youth and spread good news by publishing some interesting programs or activities. Eg FB, Instagram etc.
Prepare children to attend school Mass and train and encourage them to become altar servers and give them some other assigned roles in the Holy Eucharist
Someone pointed out that we may use the word “Christian” rather than using “Catholic Christian” in our publications.
Educate children how to do Rosary and other Novenas
 We may try to reach out to everyone in the society
During COVID time many people were attending the mass via online. We may continue broad casting live masses and other programs may make more people to attend and listen to the word of god.

Thank you

Others

Whilst this portal is a good initiative, it is very limited in what can be submitted both in scope and in length.
perhaps another option could address the need (as part of the contemplative dialogue process) to send responses after the session and share these group responses not only to inform the synod team but all the active groups
more documents could have been included in the “supporting documents” section of the booklet about dialogue process and community/identity as seen by other churches and the secular world

Parishes

Reflections from group:
Jesus identifies with sinners and a broken community. This brokenness includes the legacy of child sexual abuse. We also remember the growth and many good works our faithful have achieved since Fr Therry and Bishop Murray arrived here in the 1800s.
Concern expressed by one person that the diocesan hierarchy sometimes too concerned with ticking boxes and satisfying regulatory red tape while ignoring hurt caused to individuals. The Office of Safeguarding was mentioned in this context.
Another said the diocese operates too much according to a bureaucratic business model rather than a caring Christian community. We need to stand-up to ensure our Christian spirit and unity is not overwhelmed by this.
It was acknowledged that Catholics are stereotyped by the media, especially the clergy, but we all suffer.
One priest said he really appreciates his Catholic identity and values the support he’s received from his community during a very difficult health crisis.
We need to continue focusing on our call as a Christian community to be compassionate. This is our great strength.
Teacher in Catholic School spoke of the great Catholic identity present in their school. Regular school Masses, visits by priests, the Eucharist and classes visiting the church really united everyone. But restrictions due to COVID-19 has led to a decline in this strong Catholic community spirit. The diocese needs to relax some its restrictions and let us re-engage as Mass-centred Catholics.
We have to keep finding ways of inviting people to connect with Christ beyond the Mass and other Church rituals.
Only 7% of Catholics in our Diocese regularly attend Mass, but those who do attend are really strong and fervent in their faith and community spirit.
Our mission as Christians was summed up as love of God and love of neighbour, expressed in service.

Parishes

Our group expressed that we felt we were on a journey together.  Individually we spoke of journey in differing contexts and together we felt journey emerged as a key theme of our gathering.  We felt the contemplative dialogue was very powerful, particularly the opportunity to listen to each other. 

Parishes

Name the shared wisdom of the group:
• How do we support families to make Jesus known to their children?
• How do we reach out to the wider community when we don’t always do that with our own parishioners?
• We must not only review our culture and behaviours we need to educate how to be places of inclusivity and welcome
• How do we get new visitors / sacramental families to stay with us?
• Parishes deserve to have more autonomy as a community to make decisions based on what is right for their faith community

Parishes

Sometimes it is really hard to attend Church and feel like an outsider. We could introduce a welcoming group for each Parish who consistently speaks to the new member, checks in on them, sits with them at Mass etc. This would be a face new people know and can seek advice from. 

Secondary School

One comment that has been made in discussion at school level is the need for continued connection between Parish communities and secondary schools. This is in line with the recommendation of the “Need to discern, use, and rejoice in the call and
gifts given by the Spirit to all people – women, men and children”. Growing this connection between Clergy members, Parish communities and school communities will support the faith of young people and the whole community as we come together. 

Primary School

The catholic identity is definitely connected to that of the church direction my concerns would be around unpacking the abilty to provide support in welcoming the marginalised as well as the small groups within church would also be difficult. 

Parishes

Building the Kingdom of God together.
A small group of 6 people met to reflect on the theme Identity and Community
We agreed that parish communities should be encouraged to develop a renewed vision of parish as a community of communities.
IC 1.2 I have experiences good will and interest from families but faith development struggles for a priority in the daily lives of families.
IC 3.2 How true is this.  The church needs to be back in the marketplace meeting people where they need support not just in health and education but in local environmental groups in challenging government policies in working with abused women changing structures not just tending to the wounded.
IC 2.1 We agree but wonder what works in establishing pre evangelisation programs if the priest is struck with only following the set rituals.
IC 6.2 We believe it is important to encourage the creation of small groups of faith and life.
We also note that it is difficult to do this if this is not the vision of the parish priest.

Parishes

IDENTITY AND COMMUNITY

Our Lenten Reflection Group met on 23rd February to discuss Identity & Community. Actually this Faith-Sharing Group has met each fortnight for 25 years and most of our members have experienced a Cursillo Three Days and are actively involved with the Movement.
Naturally enough our focus was on Item 6, Small Communities and in particular Recommendations IC 6.1 and IC 6.2. We believe the future of the Church lies with the formation of small communities within Parishes where parishioners gather to pray together, share their faith life and support one another.
In the early 1980’s our Parish adopted the Movement for a Better World movement which had as its goal the formation of the Parish into a community of communities. Although this movement involved many parishioners in outreach duties it lost momentum and didn’t reach that goal.
Our Group spent a lot of our time lamenting past Church life when other renewal movements like Marriage Encounter and Cursillo drew people to be actively involved in Church life and Antioch filled the Church with enthusiastic youth.
However we realized that society has changed and for whatever reason these movements are no longer attracting participants. Concerning our youth it was suggested parents are more protective of their children and are reluctant to send them unaccompanied to Church childrens’ functions. Apart from this both parents and children are too busy with other activities. With regard to adults, Government legislation has brought in an abundance of paperwork for volunteers and some have commented “It’s more trouble than it’s worth”.
Through it all older parishioners remember with fondness the active community of past years and yearn for initiatives that would bring it back. But we realise we must live in the present and work to form community with today’s people and their priorities. We caught ourselves saying, “Father should do such and such” or “someone should…. before we reminded ourselves We Are The Church and if there is to be change then we are co-responsible with the clergy to bring about that change.
It was suggested that perhaps we should follow the example of our School community who communicate with parents and thus form community with them via the internet.
We have no solution to the question of forming a loving, supportive community but we believe it is vital for the future life of the Church.

Others

The two aspects go hand in hand. If we have a common identity, then we can be a community.
Our common identity lies in our faith: “Christ is everything in everyone” (Colossians 3:11). He is present here and now. He goes on being present in history through the action of His Spirit, the prolongation of His Presence through time and space.
We feel, and indeed are identified as, a community through our unity. Our unity comes through an awareness that we are recipients of a great gift, born as new creatures through our Baptism. The community has the task of living together this reality in a worldly reality opposed to what has happened to us.
In our community (the movement of CL) we live this task through regular meetings in which we discuss how we are living our faith or what has struck us in our daily lives, how our encounter with the Mystery reverberates in us. These meetings are an essential source of memory.
Another aspect of community is working together to build the Kingdom of God through acts of charity. We are called to perform these acts based on our own personal charism; there are no rules or obligations around acts of charity except to live them in the spirt of a community.
The Synod is an opportunity of recalling the importance of identity through unity. We must not be afraid of expressing what we believe even when it clashes with the beliefs of those around us, at the cost of losing our identity. In some of the discussions in our groups the impression was that many believe we must adapt to the thinking of the world around us, in the name of being more evangelical and shedding our prejudices. One way of being more united is to have constructive dialogue amongst ourselves about certain issues which have arisen.

Parishes

Thoughts from the group.  
Suggestion that the headings in Concerns and Recommendations be re-ordered:  Relationship should come first – relationship with God, others, ourselves – comes before everything else.
Our churches are generally closed. In medieval times monasteries provided a place where people could come to pray, to receive help from the community who were always there to welcome anyone who came.
Many of those who don’t come to Mass live good Christian lives, some probably do so more generously than some Mass-goers.  They are not recognised as living the gospel and maybe don’t understand themselves to be living as Jesus’ disciples. 
The idea of ‘community’ (as in gathering for Mass), the need for community support, the value of the Eucharist seems to mean little to many Catholics. Why?

Parishes

Call to Baptism and to be in fullness of the Church. God affirms to us that Jesus is his “Beloved Son” when the dove a sign of the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus at His baptism by John the Baptist.
There seems to be a watering down of the Faith within the Church which flows down the roots (people). Many lights were burning people get put off by this, they want the fullness of the Church, the Truth. In order to do keep our lights burning we need to follow Jesus by learning to hear the voice of God in our daily journey through personal prayer, meditation on the scriptures, receiving the sacraments of Holy Communion and Reconciliation regularly.
Can we hear God and follow him, do people know through my actions and works that I am a Christian?
Is it carried through in my family life?
Put God first.
We need to come together as a Church and Community as God wants/wills us too. By living out the Gospel, sharing the Good News and speaking out and let God do the rest. We need to participate in groups, listen to anyone who wants to take part and speak out the truth, the Gospel.  God calls us to Baptism, to repent to begin a new life in Christ. As witnesses of God’s love for us – we must accept people how they are, invite them into the Church and teach them about the Gospel so they too can begin a new life in Christ.

Parishes

WEEK 1 IDENTITY AND COMMUNITY

Comments from participants in our group.
 – Spoke about the ongoing suffering and persecution of our church for the many indiscretions and shame brought about by child abuse.
– Jesus suffered in the desert.
– Need to listen and share more with the people we meet.
– Reach out to people who still have belief.
– Jesus wasn’t aware of who he was as a child. With his Baptism he experienced the revelation he was the Son of God. He went into the wilderness and so do we with all our challenges.
– Going into the wilderness was a test. Adversity should not stand in the way of a faithful church wanting to get back to basics.
– Jesus was in the wilderness with the beasts, but the angels were there to help him.
– Greeters needed again. It is nice to be welcomed to church.
 – There has been a huge change in society. People are so busy doing multiple things now. They to make time for Parish church and community in their lives.
 – Passionist Family Groups provide community. People get to know one another on a social basis and help to strengthen the parish community. Many non-Catholic spouses feel included.

Parishes

Identity & Community – In week 1 we discussed the various activities happening in our Parish which seemed to exist in isolation. We discussed the activities of the Parish and the School which operate in isolation even though we are one entity. We rarely see children at our Masses even though our school has over 500 students. How can we communicate the good works being done in our Parish so that more Parishioners can become involved ? The group proposed that we needed better communication within our Parish, not only about the things we do, but also how people can become more involved. The other powerful thing which came out of Week #1 were the Seven Statements of “We proclaim the gospel when we …These were excellent indicators of how we should be seeking to do more to help others. The group felt that more could be done with these Seven Statements as it was the first time most of us had seen them.

Daniel Lee

The group has a consensus that faith in action is important. This would mean that processes and accountability systems must be put in place. The group also felt that more support needs to be put in place to welcome new parishioners as a sense of belonging is important in building a community. 

Active Clergy

Catholic Care, Catholic Schools, St Nicholas all receive tax payer money from government. Annually this amounts to many millions of dollars. In return we are required to comply with government governance structures. As an evangelizing community we have not yet worked out how to engage these government funded structures. Should we refuse the money and slowly get out of these areas? What would that mean for our future? If we take the money how do we then engage in new ways with these structures? A discussion on this matter is needed.

Parishes

The Diocese should consider requesting the Australian Bishops to reintroduce Friday abstinence for Australian Catholics (save for any solemnities falling on a Friday), without sanction of sin. This is intended to foster Catholic identity as well as an ecumenical gesture to Orthodox and some mainstream protestant Churches which also practice (some immensely more intensely than us) or support which such observance. The point being that for the huge number of Catholics who sadly decide not to show their Catholic identity by attending Mass, save for on the odd occasion, the return of Friday abstinence will extend to them a simple gesture by which they can express something of their Catholic identity.  Of course the original penitential objective of the practice is somewhat dissipated in a nation which enjoys seafood, but anything which is intended to outwardly express our link to Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, can never be a bad thing. We will be only following the lead of the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales who reintroduced Friday abstinence in 2011. Being too vague about penitential practices for Fridays has perhaps been a disaster, and something more concrete would be immensely appreciated by us laity plodding along our earthly pilgrimage.  Admittedly we would all also appreciate anything which might lessen the risk of staff of Catholic schools deciding (as they have done on some past occasions) to host a BBQ (not a seafood one) on Good Friday or other Fridays. 

Others

Relationships: We discerned that ‘supporting”whatever” enables people to grow’ (IC2.1) was ambiguous, as it opened the door to serving and worshipping Jesus in a way, that WE see fit and a way that pleases US, and may not always be a representation of what the Truth is and what the Holy Spirit desires from us.

Listening: We discerned that in order to hear what God is telling us, we need to pray and to pray often, uniting our hearts with God’s Holy Will.  This will help when discerning with the “ear of the heart” as our hearts will be one with the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This will allow minimum room for confusion when we are united with Christ.

Diversity of Gifts: We focused on the importance of allowing the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, that members in the community posses, to move in the Church, rather than solely focussing on the ‘natural talent’ of people in the Church. There is an importance here for both the supernatural and natural talents of the community, but more so, the supernatural as it is led by the Holy Spirit. 

Parishes

Our Parish based small group felt a sense of excitement and optimism as we reflected on our Church’s identity and community.We saw a real need to be seen in the wider community and for each of us to be active. It is important to identify an individual’s gifts and that each of us has their own role to play:as a team we will do better. We need to move forward as disciples. We felt it is up to us to make and be the change our Church needs to be a centre of joy,hope and service.

Parishes

The following is the shared wisdom that emerged from our group discussion in Murrurundi regarding Identity and Community:
1. That the Diocese establish a structure to outreach to rural and remote areas. For example, it is recommended that the Diocese create an Upper Hunter Parish Strengthening Hub in Muswellbrook or Scone which employs 3-4 people.
2. That each Parish be empowered to decide their own focus or charism, according to the demographics and geographical dispersion of parishioners etc.
3. That a sense of identity be encouraged that sees the Church as a community of equals, where everyone has a place, individual gifts are valued, rather than its identity being focused on the priest or the buildings.
4. That the Diocese transfer resources from Catholic schools to Catholic parishes and adult faith development.
5. That the Diocese embark on a communications strategy to gives people an idea of what the modern Catholic Church community is like, what it does, how it engages with contemporary society.

Parishes

IDENTITY AND COMMUNITY
Recommendations IC2.1 & IC 2.2 are offered in response to the concerns voiced by the People of God in the section Identity and Community. They focus on the words, actions and the person of Jesus and present a vision of Parish life which is strengthened to be a centre of joy, hope and service for their own members and the wider community. However, the whole assembly can only be as actively involved in Parish life as allowed by the Parish Priest. We have certainly had priests and Parish leaders (nuns, deacons, lay people) who have carried this vision and have brought the community alive, inspired and motivated but we have also had more than our fair share of priests who have been obstacles to growth and have even been abusive, bullying and dictatorial. In our Parish, at present, the authority of our Parish Priest is paramount. Four members of the discussion group have been bullied by him in their ministries and three members have suffered verbal abuse as well. Complaints made to the Bishop appear to have been ignored or overlooked. Our Parish Identity and Community appears to be fractured and stagnant with some parishioners and Parish leaders being continually frustrated in their attempts to be the hands and feet of Jesus or to support and strengthen the Parish so it can be a centre of “joy, hope and service”.
The experiences described above lead to support for IC1.1. “That priority in our Diocese be given to building life giving communities that reflect the words of Jesus” and from What we heard: “prioritizing mission over maintenance, not a power hierarchy, or institution structured around “ordination”… and  we can learn from other Church communities who are doing “mission” well.

Parishes

Question 1: What resonated with us?
– We need to work together as a Church community by helping each other grow in our Christian faith in Christ.
– Need to rethink our identity as a Parish. This may differ among Parishes.
– As society changes, we must change in our welcoming.

Question 2: What challenged us?
– Being open to all communities within the Church and how to accept them? How do we relate to them? Who is going to take the first step?
– How do we do this? What are the nuts & bolts?
– Perhaps, we need to initially start accepting in small ways rather than at large.
– #1. Communities & Families: The 2nd last arrow under concerns “prioritising mission over maintenance” …; Both are required for the efficient running of a Parish, but we need to be careful we don’t focus too much on maintenance. Perhaps before every task relating to any aspect of the Parish, we need to ask ourselves ‘what am I doing now: mission or maintenance?’
– #4. Welcoming: going to have difficulty changing culture externally especially in light of sex abuse scandals and the Catholic Church being seen as not accepting secular views. How do we get that message across of being inclusive while being firm on Church teachings?

Question 3. What’s the personal and communal invitation to us? (some personal covered in Q2.)
– At the moment it is challenging for the local Parish, due to the current COVID climate. The continually changing conditions with easing and imposed restrictions within local parishes have significantly contributed to not having all parishioners back.
– Thus, we can suggest views in the current COVID climate, but need to be open to changing conditions. 

Parishes

Discussion
Challenge: How to get the feeling of a community. Allowing peoples voices to be heard. We don’t know what goes on in the parish unless we actively seek, what are the groups within the church, e.g. music ministry. Need for transparency.
Action/Response: Community events, active welcoming team, opportunities to explore and share gifts. More transparency, communication, council presence

1. Communities
Need for there to be opportunities for everyone to live out their baptismal call. How does everyone get a chance to participate in the church celebration and community? Sharing roles, opportunities.
2. Relationships
Relationship and presence in the wider community. Little is know about what actually happens in the Catholic church. We need to be a presence in the wider community. Go into the community, e.g. helping at events, charity events where the community of Newcastle is invited
3. Listening
Giving everyone a voice. A diverse range of people elected on the Parish Pastoral Council- Woman, men, young adult, parent, elderly.
4. Welcoming
Find out what the need for these people are. Welcoming committee, welcoming package, a place for people to gather.
5. Diversity of gifts
Opportunity for everyone to explore and share their gift.
6. Small communities
Come together to celebrate events as a; parish, deanery, region, diocese. 

Secondary School

a. IC 1.2 refers to the culture of family being promoted by supporting families in dealing with realities and providing formation and practical assistance to help them.
This is ok for families who regularly attend mass, but what about those who only come for sacraments. How do we help them as families to keep attending mass and help them start to feel a part of the community?

Parishes

Group strongly identified as having strong a strong parish community. Actively engage with new parishoners, welcome them and encourage them to actively participate in parish ministries.

Identified opportunity to develop stronger links with staff and students at our local Catholic school.

Realisation that in our parish we actively support everyone to share their gifts of ministry and seek to support and encourage where people are hesitant.

Parishes

we 4 women from different parishes are mature in spirituality and communal outlook; have a reasonable grasp of the history and doctrine of the Catholic Church, and awareness of where our Church ‘is at’ in Australia. 

Collectively, we express our frustration and impatience at the obvious exclusion of women – who remain largely unacknowledged by the Church for their depth of spirituality, compassion, community building skills and leadership ability. Such gifts could be offered by women to build up the body of believers, were they properly and rightly allowed to do so. That we use the term ‘allowed’ speaks volumes of the weariness felt by many women of a continued, and at times inept dominance by a male hierarchy, when it need not be so.

Our birthright as women living in a democracy, and as Christians, is to bear equal responsibility and recognition in building the Kingdom of God.  While we acknowledge the good the Church does in our diocese, there is much territory left unwatered, underfed, and in the case of women –  undervalued.  Our compiled comments on Identity and Community as below.

Encourage worship in smaller communities.
Stimulate use of lay gifts/decision making
Learn from other Church communities.
Prioritise mission, not hierarchy or institution.
Review culture to create places of inclusivity
The perceived need to control and maintain the status quo is destroying our Church.
Whole church suffering PTSD – cannot wallpaper over wounds.

Other Organisations

1. We need to arm ourselves before we can be ready to spread the good news- anointing of the Holy spirit, fasting, repentance, expect and be ready for obstacles and hardship. Has the Church lost its focus of asceticism? Can it get that focus back?
 
2. To stay focussed on Jesus in this time of hardship and temptation rather than rely on our own strength. The call to increase our faith that the Lord will make us ready in His own way when we focus and trust in Him.
 
3. Jesus and His Word are constant and this is what we continuously need to come back to in our journey and mission.
 
4. The will of God is to be tested in us as it was in all the prophets. All of this is to discern the will of the Father in our lives so we can be prepared.

Recommendations
5. Finally we need the strength of community like prayer groups, Lenten groups and other small groups to help us grow in mission. We need God and we need each other.
 

Parishes

#6. Small Communities:
Could faith-sharing groups like Alpha, Cells, and Cursillo be better promoted so that people know about them? 

Parishes

What Resonated
– Mission over maintenance’
– Avoid closing in on ourselves and into our selfish securities;
– Valuing the differences in others and using every member’s gifts. 
– No conditions on belonging, but more about building relationships with God, others and ourselves and creation.  
– Work with smaller communities;
– Being a community of communities that realises the important of Jesus and the Word in their lives and to be open to the Spirit.
– Helping people at all stages of their lives
What Challenges
– finding the time to reorder our lives to accord with the real priorities of the changes we all need to make and in changing the clericalist old order.  
– Becoming effective intentional disciples – there was a feeling this was the most difficult thing about being Christian, particularly mixing with strangers.
– Dealing with the leftovers from the paedophile hurt and the Church’s “bad brand”.
– How to address and deal with society’s growing anti-religious sentiment.
– Getting children, their parents and youth involved as the secret to success.
– Communicating what the Church is to people and its need to be active in the community.
General Response
– Nothing particularly new in any of the concerns and recommendations.   There is nothing to disagree with, but how do we execute it?   It requires a strong common purpose, small communities and inspirational, motivated leadership.   
– If we are to develop our identity and community it is important that there is a process whereby we can all share our views and listen to others on the challenges we face and lessons learned, and come up with agreed plans and projects.

Parishes

Our identity and community, like everything and for every Christian and especially us Catholics, needs to begin with, centre upon, and be ever directed towards, deepening our personal relationship with our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ. That’s why we are here and why we get up in the morning! We need to get back to the core and central reasons for our existence, foundation and purpose. If we do not do this then everything else we do, say and write, is just waffle and our liking the sound of our own voice.  We end up just sprouting out ‘word salad’ or pushing a potentially misguided agenda, which becomes a bore for most people. We need to really all be on FIRE with the love of Jesus Christ, and everything else can fall into place around that. Our worship (principally with Mass) and prayer, personal reading of Holy Scripture, etc. can all help us feed that fire. Christ’s rising from the dead is the dynamite which we should stop hiding from ourselves and others. 

Parishes

My main concern is the lack of acknowledgement of the impact of  our high proportion of foreign-born clergy on parish life. Some of these priests lack the cultural awareness and skills to connect with parishioners liturgically and as community leaders. Their inability to help us articulate and develop our identity and community is damaging parish life.
Specific changes to recommendations:
IC 2.2 add prayer to the list of characteristics we want in our parishes
IC 3.1 – replace “story” with “human experience” to point out that the community of faith is also a source of Divine revelation as well as reducing a possible misunderstanding of “story” as fiction
IC 4.1 consider adding to the end: “that resonate with Australian culture”

Parishes

Identity and Community
These are  some of the  insights, opinions from parishioners of Holy Trinity Blackbutt North
I am satisfied with the proposals. Those gathered at the first Pentecost listened intently. They recognized humility in Peter and the other Apostles, whose preaching gave glory to God.
To be able to reach out and listen to people who are outside our comfort zone.
The structure of the Synod, it seems to me will emphasize the essential elements for building the kingdom of God, in so far as it centres on the person of Christ on the liturgy of the Eucharist, and on a listening, discerning gathering of small groups of prayerful people. Like Jesus, such Catholics will be attentive to the various needs of others in the community.
There is a Catholic community and a larger community. The Catholic community is part of the larger community, but also separate from it with its own particular identity. The Catholic community must listen to, dialogue with and interact with the larger community without compromising its own identity. Cutting oneself off from the wider community to preserve one’s own identity is not a realistic option. Catholics, and others, will have to agree to disagree on some fundamental points. Diversity and inclusivity does not mean jettisoning core Catholic principles, but engagement with and respect for one another is important. We can all learn from others, and Catholics should strive to be a leaven, the light of Christ in the world.
It is also important to strengthen our own Catholic community. The most important thing is to strengthen and sanctify Catholic family life, and we should also turn our attention to the most needy in our society: the poor, the aged, the sick, those who struggle to cope for whatever reason, whoever they are.

Parishes

#6. Small Communities:
Could faith-sharing groups like Alpha, Cells, and Cursillo be better promoted so that people know about them? 

Parishes

1) What we heard from listening to the Scripture
Jesus responded to baptism by John.
We are called to repent and believe that the gospel of the Kingdom of God has come.
IC 1.1
By Baptism we are identified with Jesus who heard the Father acknowledge him as ‘beloved Son’ and on whom the Holy Spirit rested.
2) Listen in prayerful quiet.
The identity of the first Christians: “They remained faithful to the Apostle’s teaching, to communal life, to the breaking of bread, and to the prayers.  The whole group was united, heart and soul, gladly and generously sharing all”.
They were identified in the community by these maxims.
IC 3.1
   3)  How do we witness to the Kingdom of God?
How can our local Church community help us become identifiable as the first Christians were?
How can each of us involve ourselves to be identified as being faithful to the Apostle’s teaching, to communal life, to the breaking of bread, and to the prayers.  And as a group be united, heart and soul, gladly and generously sharing our gifts and talents?
IC 4.1
4. What are our concerns about identity and community?
Listen and weigh what we perceive to be “not far from the Kingdom of God”.
We considered the Beatitudes.
IC 5.2
5) What we believe/ understand from reflecting on this Theme to be “the VOICE OF THE SPIRIT”
Call to hear and declare our belief in the truths of “The Apostles Creed”.
IC 6.3
What we believe/ understand from reflecting on this Theme to be “THE VOICE OF THE SHEPHERD”
Jesus, Shepherd and Leader prepared for his mission for 40 days. We listen to the teaching of the Church through our local Bishop.
IC 5.2
What we believe/ understand from reflecting on IDENTITY AND COMMUNITY as “GOD’S WISDOM”- that the Kingdom of God is near.
Faith in our worship, faith in works of mercy, e.g. St Vincent de Paul Society, as mission and outreach.

Parishes

 – We each develop our own personal relationship with God, from there all else will flow.
 – We base our relationships with others on the Christian foundations of love and forgiveness.
 – We strive to be an actively functioning Church community within our own local community rather than seeing the church building as the key ingredient of our Catholic identity.
 – We strive to welcome all equally regardless of sex, race, religion, sexual orientation etc.
 – We strive to listen to everyone and discern ways to unite all people in faith.
 – We are missionary disciples striving to spread the Good News of Christ by our own words and actions, each of us doing the best we can with the gifts we have.
 – We saw benefit in developing small faith sharing groups within the parish, i.e. Rosary and faith sharing discussion groups such as this Lenten Discussion Group.
 – We are ashamed of the sexual and other abuse by certain priests and other religious inflicted upon children and vulnerable adults and the associated cover up of these crimes by certain senior members of our church hierarchy. We feel great remorse for the victims and their families and friends, many traumatised beyond repair. Whilst extremely difficult, we strive to forgive those guilty of these crimes but wish to see justice served for both victims and the guilty. We warmly received Bishop Bill’s letter commemorating the recently deceased Bishop Philip Wilson and his efforts in addressing our church’s systemic failures in protecting our children and vulnerable adults, efforts possibly spurred on by his own much publicised alleged involvement in the cover up of child abuse.
 – We heard how certain church rules have historically provoked anguish among our own faithful, leaving permanent scars, i.e. mixed faith marriages. There are likely other church rules still in existence leading to deep personal anguish and division.  Maybe it’s time to soften our approach to differing circumstances that more align with our Christian beliefs.

Other Organisations

The following propose recommendations were discerned at the CDMN LGBTIQ Catholic Forum 21 March 2021 Contemplative Dialogue exercise and are requested to be added to the Identity and Community Recommendations:
Add a new recommendations:
IC 4.2 Clergy to be more open and demonstrate active leadership in including LGBTIQ people and their issues
IC 4.3 Parishes and diocesan ministries welcome and publicaly affirm that LGBTIQ people are made in God’s image and equal members of our Church
These should include parishes and diocesan ministries promoting the LGBTIQ Catholic Forum

Parishes

Of one mind re recommendations.
Comments re IC 5.2 – building discernment of gifts culture so as to be used for whole community.  It was voiced many who might  secretly acknowledge their gifts are afraid to use them because of lack encouragement from community and lack of developed faith leading to lack of confidence.
Recommendation IC61:
Stressed Important to actively  look and learn from other church communities who are soundly successful in building their communities.

Primary School

Our group really valued to opportunity to reflect, listen and discern.

Resonated: We are welcoming and need to continue to look to the marginalised and welcome them, these are the same people that Jesus helped.  We are all unconditionally loved by God.  Our church is a living human community, rather than a building and we need to provide practical service to our community.

Challenges: The hostility from those without faith.  It is sometimes difficult for people of the church to be open to listening without bias or their own agenda.  The history of abuse in the church is an ongoing challenge, the church acknowledging this for what it is and using words that don’t skirt around the issue is important.  There is a lack of relatability for our children, we need to provide engaging and uplifting encounters for our children.  Catholic Education is very different to the past, how do we share what this looks like with our community compared to 40 years ago.

Invitation:  We have the opportunity to learn from other church communities.  Our school communities are places that have the opportunity to not show judgement towards others but to allow them to feel valued.  We are the starting point and the face of the church for many of our families.  How will the church journey with us to create an encounter for our families and students that makes them want to become a part of us?

Primary School

I do believe that that this paper reflects the direction the Holy Spirit is leading us. I particularly note the need for less judgement, great acceptance of difference, embracing diversity and the desire to bring life to the Parishes to become Centre’s of hope for the people. Anything we can do as a community to prioritize and support families is important.

Primary School

My concern is around the sacraments which in this diocese is taught by the church volunteers. I believe you would find more involved in the process if the school could teach the sacraments and support lessons at school. Still supported in the church of course but mainly at the school. 

Parishes

WP 4.1 “We gather in community….to support on another, mourn our losses, to be nourished and strengthened for mission”.
We believe that the Sunday liturgy should be a time when we greet one another, share, catch up and informally build up a sense of belonging and community.  This is a time of celebration and sharing. 
The priest should lead the Sunday Liturgy.  He is ordained for this particular ministry and is prepared through his years of training in Scripture and Theology. His own spiritual development and prayer life is ongoing.  He is entitled to support and formation through his bishop and his priestly brothers in the diocese.
We agree that there should be many other formal and informal prayer opportunities built into the parish calendar which meet the devotional needs of the parish.
Reflection on the Sunday liturgy can happen in groups outside the Sunday liturgy as is demonstrated by the Wollongong Diocese Lenten Program.
WP 4.3 There are many other roles the congregation can already perform in the administration of the sacraments, in leading prayer, meditation and formation groups.
WP 5.1 The group agreed that parish centred preparation for the sacraments is a wonderful opportunity to engage with families and support parents in the Christian education of their child and their own spiritual development.
WP 5.4 As the matter stands at the moment this is the role of the deacon. Only other people available for these ministries are usually retired people who are members of the congregation.  Special evangelical programs to recruit, engage and train active retirees in a focus on ministry and mission might have a positive influence.  When members of our parish asked to train for this no one was willing mainly because of the duration of the training and requiring travel.

Parishes

PRAYER AND WORSHIP
Reflections by our Small Group
There was some frustration that issues of lay involvement in the Church’ss liturgy had been spoken about over 25 years ago and yet little action taken. Any action that was taken came out of necessity due to lack of clergy rather than a  conscious decision for change. Under Paragraph 5, Sacraments, it was noted “All the baptized have the right and responsibility for the mission of the Church”.
It was felt there needed to be a clear message about what could and couldn’t be changed liturgically and why certain things couldn’t be changed.
In line with our comments on  “Identity and Community” we thought it important that opportunities exist for people to “share their struggles in their faith lives in an experience sharing session” as mentioned under Paragraph 3 Homilies, and Recommendation WP 4.1.
We agreed with WP 4.3 but felt that the talents of lay people need to be investigated and encouraged not just in the area of leading Liturgies of the Word but in other forms of Ministry. Once identified, these people should be encouraged to be involved in Ministry.
We are all aware of the decline in the use of the Sacrament of Penance and thought that the restoration of the Third Rite of Reconciliation (WP 5.3) would at least encourage people to examine their lives, become aware of misdemeanors and be reconciled for their wrongs.

Others

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind”  (Romans 12:1-2).
In the Synod discussions, not much was said about worship. Certainly Paul’s definition was not touched on. Community worship was much discussed, especially regarding the Sacraments and above all the Eucharist. The role of the Synod is not to comment on nor suggest changes to liturgical practices, although much time was dedicated to hearing people’s opinions on this. We lay people are not qualified to do this. We should learn from our recent past that sometimes changes do more harm than damage.
A suggestion would be to have an early weekday Mass for those who work. In our parish at Tighes Hill we are fortunate to have a Croatian priest who says Mass every morning at 7 AM. Starting the day with the Eucharist is a wonderful and valuable gift.
Prayer was not much discussed in my group. In our movement (Communion and Liberation), we have certain guidelines regarding prayer, such as starting the day with the Angelus. We are asked to pray with the Book of Hours, which we always do when we meet or are on retreat. Those in Memores Dominae (consecrated lay people) are asked to dedicate a period to silent personal prayer every morning. With the pandemic, using social media many groups have spontaneously formed rosary groups on occasions of need for someone sick, or death.
Prayers asking the intercession of a particular saint, or a pilgrimage are valuable ways of encouraging community prayers outside the usual prayers during the celebration of the Sacraments.

Parishes

Women should have a more substantial role in leading worship in the church.  Leadership roles for women should be given prominence in future church structures.  Third rite of reconciliation should be restored as a general practice in parishes.  Greater emphasis should be put on Prayer as a driver in our society and more opportunities should be created to establish these alongside the weekly Sunday Masses.
Sunday liturgies could incorporate lay involvement in sermons.

Parishes

Lenten Program Wisdom Summary Inner City Newcastle
Week 2 WORSHIP and PRAYER: 
WP 1.1…. new liturgical and prayerful experiences, both formal and informal, to help people pray in their daily lives.
 – Our relationship with God is nourished by conversation with God’s – Prayer
– We embrace multiple forms of prayer in enriching our relationship with God
– Pope Francis encourages us to ” dive into the sea of prayer”.
– building on and developing new liturgical and prayerful experiences inclusive of multicultural (particularly indigenous) prayer
WP 2.1…..Christ’s presence in the Eucharist….
WP 2.2. ….active involvement of different cultures…
 – A deeper understanding of prayer may help us notice and experience God (as Jesus in the gospel did) especially in the Mass, e.g in the Eucharist; in the Word and within the Community. and we embrace Pope Francis’ reverent inclusive practicality of the intimacy of the Eucharist –  ‘although it is the fullness of sacramental life, it is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak’.
 – Emphasis of an unconditionally loving merciful God in liturgies
WP4.1….meaningful and interactive opportunities be provided for fellowship, prayer and worship.
– Publicity and support for things already going on in the parish, e.g., View, Chew, Chat; Meditation Groups; Spiritual Direction; plus others
– Suggest bring back announcements at the end of Mass to highlight opportunities
WP 4.2  That prayer experiences in response to communal matters…
 – Like the Infant Church, when faced with challenges today we should pray as a community
WP 5. 3rd Rite of Reconciliation be restored…..
 – We embrace the reintroduction of the 3rd Rite of Reconciliation as a life giving community event and that it should be held regularly in all parishes in the diocese.

Parishes

The actual church is noisy before, during and after mass – there is little/no quiet time. Very few churches are open during the day, and even then, it is difficult for many to get to a church to pray in silence.
I cannot see many people actively participating in homilies, or being willing to share experiences through homilies.
Sermons need to be kept tight and relevant. Many sermons are too long, repetitive, lose their way and are unrelated to the life of everyday people. And a joke doesn’t make a priest more relatable – especially if it is not his natural personality. Some priests need to stick to a written homily as they lose their way.
I remember a sermon in Sydney where the priest used the visual capabilities of the church to describe a religious painting – it was an engaging way to get a point across. But not every week.
Prayer groups don’t appeal to me although I know some who do like this aspect. To many, outside of the mass, prayer is something done in solitude.
Individual confession is a relic of the past and a noose for the church in light of the pedophile priests and the sanctity of confession. People don’t have to be humiliated to be sorry for their sins, and people shouldn’t see confession as an escape clause.
There is an air of frustration in many parishes about a fuss being made over children making their confirmation etc. only for the families to be hardly ever seen again. Are these families asked why they want their children baptised etc. but never attend mass?
Why do we need priests if there is the possibility of having lay people witness/officiate many sacraments and rites?

Primary Schools

It seems the Church provides service only within the Mass, and there continues to be a hierarchy in the Church that is at odds with the teachings of Jesus, especially around service to others.  Youths in the group felt that some of the priests they have encountered are very unwelcoming.  The laity, and many of the Priests of other nations that are now part of our Diocese, are seen as doing the true work of Jesus such as outreach, community and welcome.  Church “cells”, run by priests to address theology were seen as a positive step towards worship & prayer.

Others

We need prayer offered in locations for natural disasters and issues that are affecting people at a local, national and global scale.
The Eucharist and Mass is a high order way of worship and prayer and should be acknowledged as such. This “exclusive” way of coming together for worship and prayer is not the only way to celebrate our faith.
No need to change the structure of the mass but create other ways to celebrate and come together as Christian Catholics. Mass is not the only way to be Catholic. We must stop putting hurdles in place for people and start to include everyone. In particular – not allowing divorced women to receive the Eucharist, and not allowing blessings of Gay Marriages (these old ways of thinking need to change) . We need to give other people a chance to give the homily and Homilies should not go over 7 minutes.
Women should be able to take leadership roles in Churches. It is time for the feminine voice to be heard!
Cultures need to be included in the Mass. This will be dependent on cultures that make up the parish community.
Acknowledgement of Country should be said at every Mass. 
We need to research what effective and high-functioning parishes and churches are doing and learn from them. We must not only learn but make the changes necessary to also be flourishing parishes. Stop putting roadblocks in place for people who are wanting to and willing to help build the kingdom, even if it is something new and outside the square!

Others

We all need to have encounters and the Mass creates this for some but not all people. We need to take personal responsibility to reach out and participate in worship and prayer experiences that are on offer and maybe even work together to create these experiences for one another.
We need to look for new ways that are relevant, flexible and understanding of the busy lives and pressure that families are under. Sometimes Sunday is the only day families and individuals have at home and is the expectation that they attend Mass every Sunday just an extra pressure rather than an experience or encounter of Christ.
Do people want more prayer and worship opportunities?
If we are unable to understand the homily and that is the only way we connect to the Gospel, what use is it attending Mass. How can we make understanding of the Gospel message more accessible for people?
The music is outdated, boring and although some traditional hymns are lovely, the music is catering for the older generation and certainly not new generations.
There is a genuine need for prayer. Maybe we all need to be reminded and educated on the importance and power of prayer and understand as Christians, this is how we get closer to God. We need to make people feel comfortable in a surrounding where prayer is not “freaky” or unusual but rather “normalised” and communal.
Prepare good leadership and deliverers of Sacramental Programs. Research and embrace different ways of sacramental preparation that is inclusive for all families and abilities within the community.
Include the Third Rite of Reconciliation. Not just for times of war or national disasters, but as a regular part of our faith.

Primary School

The shared wisdom of the group concluded that the celebration of mass needs to be joyful and alive with good music, a less formal liturgy, an emphasis on prayer and enthusiasm not fear from the participants.

Parishes

Week 2 Worship & Prayer

Shared wisdom of group participants

Particular attention given to this Gospel and Bishop Bill’s reflection and questioned how do we have the chance to experience Christ, for this to be real to us?, not just be ‘members’ of the church
And then carry those things ‘down the mountain’ making a difference into the ordinary

With the sacraments there was the feeling that the childrens’ books for the sacramental program could be accompanied with a more detailed version, draw the parent/s, carer/s into groups so they can be uptodate with church teaching

Recommendations well supported include WP 3.1& 2; WP 4.1/2/3; WP5.3
Concern there does appear a heavy reliance on ‘the diocese’ for any of this & other recommendations to happen! Where are the personal? How much needs to be devolved to parish communities?

Others

Generally the group agreed that the paper reflected the current situation as regards the state of worship and prayer in our parishes. we thought the following matters were significant:
1.Greater need to understand the Eucharist as an action: THIS is the Body of Christ; YOU are the Body of Christ; BE the Body of Christ.
2. We suggest  that the current translation of the Missal does not help – its language is sexist and too wordy: the essence is often lost in long, involved sentences.
3. There be involvement of lay people in the development and presentation of homilies that relate the Word of God to people’s lives and current issues in society e.g. euthanasia, environment, social justice
4. Assistance be given to overseas priest with the language and to understand our culture.
5. Today few people frequent the sacrament of Penance.  As the sacrament has been administered in different forms over the years, we ask that  in our times, in the Australian Church, the sacrament be offered in the three forms, with the Third Rite of Reconciliation restored with the First and Second Rites.

Parishes

Q1. From your reflections of Scripture, Our Story, Foundational Statements, Concerns and Recommendations – what resonates with you?
–    The experience of being on the mountain with Jesus; he shone. Light bulb moments, and clarity of thought about what needs to happen in the Church. For me, spirituality is about worshipping God and walking with Jesus on the journey.
–     We all have a role in journeying together in our own families and sharing that with the Church and wider community.
–     We need to re-visit our time and energy into the family and teaching them the way to journey with Jesus (e.g., praying)
–     The apostles have come to know Christ as the epitome of what is perfect life.
–      More spiritual development and opportunities for young people to nourish their faith, either offering more programs, retreats that are more meaningful for them.
–      Faith needs to have a greater influence in our everyday life.

Q2. From your reflections of Scripture, Our Story, Foundational Statements, Concerns and Recommendations – what challenges you?
– Everyday is a challenge.
– Having a conversation with God and teaching others to do the same, through prayer, meditation etc.
– Protocols and an offering of new prayers for schools to use as a guide for liturgical practice (i.e., during school masses) is lacking.
– Lack of Youth Masses, and opportunities for young people to meet Christ where they are.

Q3. From your reflections of Scripture, Our Story, Foundational Statements, Concerns and Recommendations – what is the invitation to you personally and for your local Church community?
– We have taken the opportunity to come to this Lenten reflection group.
– Make better known the activities of the Church that parishioners can engage with and participate in.

Other Organisations

Catholic Charismatic Renewal
The Transfiguration showed how the disciples had both a real deep experience of God and how they came to know that with the glory of God will also come suffering.

1. Life in the Spirit Seminars are a way people can encounter Jesus in a real way. Can these become regular occurrences in the mainstream Church in different parishes rather than just offering to those in Charismatic circles?
2. The need for prayer partners, a group of two or three people supporting each other in prayer and mentoring each other through difficult times and our suffering.
3. Small groups- prayer meetings in parishes, bible studies etc – small groups are vital for faith formation and forming greater connection to God and the mission of the Church.
4. The “inner circle” of disciples and the trust that Jesus had in them – the call for the lay ministry to work in closer collaboration and a spirit of prayer with the Parish Priest towards the Church’s mission.
5. The opportunity to serve others, to share in their suffering – “where do we start?” Start in the small things and God will call us to greater things – “Whoever can be trusted in little can be trusted with much” Lk 16:10

How can administration of Diocese support these smaller initiatives?

Parishes

The following is a synopsis of our group:
There is still an expectation that priests or some other “leader”,  will organise groups for prayer or discussion.  We still seem to rely on others.
Our response to prayer is personal & simple,  as well as communal & ritualised. We are all different & respond to invitation to prayer in different ways
Prayer through meditation
The under 60’s practising Catholics are time poor.  To participate in Church life beside attending Mass, needs a new response. Possibly using technology, eg zoom, to create & enrich faith experiences
We recognised that within our diocese there is a lot on offer, but in the main people aren’t aware of this. We know that there is a lot on the website,  but navigating this is not always easy or available for everyone. We are sorry that we don’t have answers for this.

Secondary School

There are a number of concerns raised about the current translation of the liturgy, yet there are no recommendations relating to the language of the liturgy. Pope Francis has allowed Bishops’ Conferences to implement their own translations of the liturgy. A recommendation needs to be made regarding the use of more appropriate and inclusive language in Mass.

There needs to be de-formalisation of aspects of liturgy and worship, making it more accessible for all people.

More options for gatherings outside of Mass.

There needs to be less reliance on Priests and increased usage of SCAE in Parishes.

Parishes

Lenten Program Wisdom Summary Inner City Newcastle

Week 2 WORSHIP and PRAYER:

WP 1.1 … new liturgical and prayerful experiences, both formal and informal, to help people pray in their daily lives.

• Our relationship with God is nourished by conversation with God – Prayer
• We embrace multiple forms of prayer in enriching our relationship with God
• Pope Francis encourages us to “dive into the sea of prayer”
• building on and developing new liturgical and prayerful experiences inclusive of multicultural (particularly indigenous) prayer

WP 2.1. … Christ’s presence in the Eucharist ….
WP 2.2. … active involvement of different cultures …..

• A deeper understanding of prayer may help us notice and experience God (as Jesus in the gospel did) especially in the Mass, e.g in the Eucharist; in the Word and within the Community. and we embrace Pope Francis’ reverent inclusive practicality of the intimacy of the Eucharist –  ‘although it is the fullness of sacramental life, it is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak’.
• Emphasis of an unconditionally loving merciful God in liturgies

WP4.1 …meaningful and interactive opportunities be provided for fellowship, prayer and worship.

• Publicity and support for things already going on in the parish, e.g., View, Chew, Chat; Meditation Groups; Spiritual Direction; plus others
• Suggest bring back announcements at the end of Mass to highlight opportunities

WP 4.2  That prayer experiences in response to communal matters …

• Like the Infant Church, when faced with challenges today we should pray as a community

WP 5.3 3rd Rite of Reconciliation be restored ….

• We embrace the reintroduction of the 3rd Rite of Reconciliation as a life giving community event and that it should be held regularly in all parishes in the diocese.

Parishes

Week 2 Reflections:

Group members stated that we are the chosen one among others like Peter, John and James who were chosen among the twelve disciples to see the transfiguration of our Lord.  Therefore, we have more responsibility to inspire others to experience Christ.
As Christians, we need to reach out to those who are in need. It may take a bit of time for them to disclose their needs, if any. Listening is the best way of understanding others. As a church community, we can support others in their tough times, only if we are aware about the situations /hardships they are going through.  If we support them they feel like they have been taken care of and they may come back to faith. At the same time, we need to be educated about our power as Christians v/s vulnerability as members of general public.
Group also pointed out that there is no reflection time during Mass especially after homily. Giving some quiet time after homily and after receiving the Holy Communion will give people more time to pray. Prayer is the weapon of all our problems. Couple of members shared their experiences about how they succeeded with the power of prayer during their times of trouble.
In order to discourage chatting in the church before mass the group recommended reciting Rosary before Mass at Sacred Heart Campbell Hill Church.
The churches being closed mostly during day hours is found as a limiting factor for those who wish to visit to church during the week. People may not get a quiet time to come sit peacefully in the church when they are in a desperate situation.
In order to welcome others into the church one member suggested that we may put a banner outside of the church with mass times and so on, that may help some people who want to at least visit church during mass. More attractive programmes need to be organized apart from routine prayer meeting and liturgy.

Parishes

Reflections from group:
Church provides a safe and peaceful place amidst the daily challenges of life. The Eucharist keeps us Christ-centred.
Why did Peter want to build three tents on the mountain? It’s a very interesting human response. Did he want to preserve this great spiritual moment since it can be hard to find quiet time from the slog of daily life. Similarly, it is often hard to leave the peace and tranquillity of God’s house.
How to get non-churchgoers to appreciate their need for quiet prayer-time. Can we use more technology and the media which is so popular with the young? Online Masses sustained many of us during the COVID lockdown and may have helped many others to reconnect with their faith roots.
We need to be careful about changing the Mass to please the world, because if its changed its no longer the Mass.
We disagree with recommendation WP5.3 that the Third Rite of Reconciliation be restored in Australia, because people do need to confess their sins.
In response to Bishop Bill’s comment about 90% not going to Mass, it was acknowledged that many such Catholics still live good lives.
We have lots of prayer and worship opportunities in our parish but only a few devout individuals keep these going. Yet, we need to keep these going even if only a few attend.
People who stay with the faith nowadays have probably had a personal revelation of Christ.
The ABC and various other media networks are persecuting our Catholic Church. Our Church leaders need to stand up more for the church and not be afraid to affirm its traditional doctrinal and moral teachings.
Priests in homilies need to stress more the supernatural dimension rather than just the social dimension of Christianity.

Parishes

Variety of gifts waiting to be tapped – this needs to be worked on – greater encouragement and engagement from leadership.
We have a few prominent cultural groups in our Parish and this week’s reflections prompted a discussion around closer enagagement with them.
We’d also  like to see oversees Priests receive some elocution workshops – especially of distinct pronounciation and articulation. More education for them around the length of a Homily in Australia.

Others

Reflections on the question: what is prayer?
Prayer is connection and many things;
it is individual; individual asking and talking;
Transformation is a prayerful experience; a transforming experience is a gift given to some; Transforming effect of pilgrimage to holy places, giving a transforming experience which is just for you;
A lot of prayer is repetition;
The prayer that we may be made worthy of the promise;
Liturgical prayer unites us with God AND with one another.
Concerns with the language of liturgy.
Old translations, e.g. still using the Elizabethan version of the Lord’s Prayer.
Change to more literal translation that have been more rigid and less beautiful.
Liturgical symbols that are expressions not of the time of Jesus on earth but of later times.
Leanings towards extreme realism in liturgical practice.
Vestments reflecting other times and cultures & not appropriate for the Australian climate.
‘doing’ versus ‘being.
Invoked the Aboriginal sense of the dreaming, the now is always with us, past times coming into the present, once offered always present, an expression of ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’.
Words are sacraments.
Expanding homilies particularly to allow people with diverse backgrounds to share their stories and traditions.
Eucharist is a mystery, ever present, a ‘being’ activity.
Call to be pastoral.
Liked the Bishop’s reflection, very pastoral.
To be more engaging with those reaching out in the booklet.
To restore the 3rd Rite of Reconciliation (WP 5.3).
Emphasise the Lenten practice of deep reflection and meditation on the gospel of the Sunday.

Others

Resonance: Listen to Jesus in our ordinary lives;
Challenge: we recognized our personal challenge in this listening;
we need courage to challenge the church-worship-structures that are an obstacle to the listening.
Invitation: in responding to Jesus….we act from the spirit of the law rather tham the letter…personally and as the church-community
CONGRATULATIONS on your book. we are indebted to you. 

Parishes

Name the shared wisdom of the group
• Too often, the requirement to abide strictly by liturgical norms has run contrary to the faith-filled lived experiences of the faithful
• Today’s Catholics are mature, intelligent, well-educated people who do not need or appreciate being told that according to the Liturgical norms, written by clerical academics, and decreed by the Bishops, must be the way we collectively practice our faith.  
• Why do Catholics in Italy, the Pacific Islands, Japan, France, Outback Australia, and elsewhere need to conform to the ONE set of rituals despite the fact these are all very different cultures?
• WP1.1  We do not agree that we need NEW liturgical and prayerful experiences handed down to the faithful. The principle of subsidiarity needs to be upheld.

Parish Lay Leaders

From the Gospel we shared our moments of encountering Jesus in a personal and powerful way. We saw the challenge of the Church presuming our sacramental programs would achieve this personal relationship and hope for a review of these programs of “being done” – too much emphasis on ceremony and not on candidates relationship with Jesus .  Challenged by Effort of these Programs not reflected in a growing  dynamic church. Must do something different. Some challenged by idealist language of The Story – we are sustained, Infants cherished etc and didn’t see this as a reality for many. Excited by possibility for lay led gatherings and home groups. Hope homilies WILL really connect the scripture to everyday life and not to be lectured at . Saw greater need for lay involvement  including preaching- we make up bulk of church – great resource –  that is too often side-lined. One said educated laity voting with their feet. We saw great value in  interacting with homilies – perhaps group meeting with priests to brainstorm variety of reflections on next Sunday Gospel and/or  after Mass discussion.
Saw need for more and affordable opportunities for lay to experience retreat to sustain and deepen faith and strengthen them to do God’s work.

Parishes

Our Reflection Group recognised:
PRAYER: there are different forms of faith expression. We may benefit from incorporating other cultural practices into our liturgies.
HOMILIES: lay people could be invited to respond to homilies, or on occasion to preach in our liturgies.
LITURGIES: could be less formal and structured, encouraging greater participation by the people and an opportunity to share their faith
THIRD RITE OF RECONCILIATION: could be a very meaningful community celebration of God’s mercy and forgiveness. 

Other

Spend time to pray. Jesus went away to pray in solitude. This is a call for us to spend quiet time with the Lord, in Adoration, Prayer, alone or together as a Parish. The importance of personal time with the Lord helps build faith, relationship, and trust in the Lord. He will speak to us through prayer, visions, granting of various graces such as how to discern life choices.
Challenges: presumption of not having time, teaching our children right from wrong and especially how to pray and bringing them to Church weekly, reaching out to others in the community, living out the Gospel daily. Catholic people not having the tools to differentiate between mediation methods – yoga vs Christian meditation such as the Rosary, reading and mediating on sacred scripture, adoration.
Invitation for personal prayer by spending time with the Lord and asking Holy Spirit for guidance.
There should be no hierarchy within the Church diocese. Power struggles within some parishes discourage people from attending Church.
Catechists in schools in RCIA programmes for the education of faith, the sacraments and use of sacramentals.
Parent groups within the schools and Church as an invitation to understanding the faith and how to live out your faith personally, within your family and parish. Invitation for clergy and nuns to join within these groups.
Bring Jesus back! If we want to build a kingdom together, we must bring Him back. Visible in the Churches, schools and other places within the Diocese. The Corpus has been removed from the Crucifixes as not to offend. Some tabernacles are moved from the center of the Church to the left or right or not even visible.
Who is Jesus? God tells us a second time in the transfiguration that, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”

Others

Comments from participants in our group.

People fulfill their obligation for Mass but do not participate in the community.
People have fallen away from attending Mass for lots of reasons including a change in society which gives them many distractions and other commitments outside church. They don’t make time to go to Mass. How can we stop people from leaving the church? Listen to their reasons for leaving! Is there anything we can do about it?
We talk about evangelisation but we also need to talk about how we keep the parishioners we already have as well.
Need to try to be an influence on our grandchildren.
The developed world is disturbed and targeted with groups being involved in extremist type vigilante groups in Australia forcing their opinions on those outside their groups.
Need to concentrate on what changes in the church could be beneficial.
Live the Gospel by our actions.
Listening to people in need.
Need a change in direction. Too many people have been hurt in the past. Turned away from the church because of divorce.
Pedophilia bringing shame on the church.
Get back to Jesus’ true message and how he treated everyone, including sinners (11th Commandment) ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’
Need better homilies relating the Gospel to everyday life (with training).
People in trouble need more practical support (not just prayer groups). Gospel in action!
We all agree that the Third Rite of Reconciliation should be restored in the church in Australia.

Parishes

Worship & Prayer – the Seven Statements came up again with Pope Francis’s statement “You pray for the hungry, then you feed them. That’s how prayer works”. This Foundation raised the need for us to interact more closely with, and learn from, our First Nation peoples. There are many spiritual things we can learn from the Aboriginal culture and their reverence for God in the land and in our surroundings. There were also concerns raised during discussions that our Church is getting smaller, and that we are making it more difficult to become Catholic. We are an “exclusive” club not an “inclusive” club. This theme also recurs in the weeks ahead when we talk of excluding divorced people, gay people, people who use contraception and/or IVF to plan and conceive a family. We supported more involvement of talented laity in leading the liturgy (homilies, leading prayer groups). There was a strong call for our weekly prayer to be more than just attendance at Mass. The Church should encourage parishioners to participate in formal prayer groups outside of Mass on a regular basis. 

Agencies

The group agreed that there is a need to create spaces to have more faith-based conversations among young people. Having physical youth centred spaces or hubs that are easily accessible and modern are recommended. This can be a hub where people can grow in faith as there are many faith-based resources available that people are not accessing but can be shown here. There is a real yearning to dive deeper into faith and to be mentored in prayer and worship. 

There are youth centred events that are good but sometimes transport can be an issue.
Young people need to feel welcome and a sense of home in our mass centres. 
Young people need to feel empowered and trusted to lead.
Young people need faithful leaders to journey with.

The group believe that retreats are crucial to the deepening and enkindling the fire of faith but there needs to be follow-up support to keep the fire burning. One member of the group disagrees with making the third rite of reconciliation available as the norm of reconciliation as it should only be used in emergencies. 

Parishes

The Diocese could encourage priests to use more diversity for the Eucharistic Prayer. They seem to only use Eucharistic Prayer II and the lack of variety is really becoming too much like pre-Vatican II when there was only one Eucharistic Prayer! The longer Eucharistic Prayers (I & IV) are both very prayerful and inspiring, and we wouldn’t mind hearing them more often. With ever older congregations, they have less things to be rushing away to do, and if the priest were very time conscious, then trimming homilies by a couple of minutes, wouldn’t end up making Mass any longer (as if that mattered) when using such Eucharistic prayers. Vatican II introducing the spoken form of the Eucharistic prayers in the Ordinary Form of the Mass with an obvious intention that the Eucharistic prayers could have their own homiletic purpose. 

Others

We discerned that the diocese acknowledge, welcome support and embrace the various cultural groups that make up our local Catholic Church, including our priests from overseas.

We discerned whether using lay people was due to a shortage of priest and if so, the solution should be to continue to invite overseas priests into our diocese as well as continue to pray for vocations to the priesthood.

(Matthew 7: 6)

Others

Homilies: We discerned that priests continue the tradition of preaching in the liturgical context and should not be replaced by lay people. We did however discuss, that the priest should take the time to pray, familiarise themselves with the scripture, properly prepare a reflection that will deepen the people’s faith and then deliver it to the best of their ability.

Lay people to train and be formed so they are able to use their gifts and talents in other areas that may deepen the faith of their audience, such as in meetings, gatherings etc in the role of a Catholic speaker.

Sacraments: A greater understanding of the graces received during the Sacrament of Reconciliation and it’s importance in the life of a Catholic, therefore the humility and courage it takes to approach the confessional booth should be explored with the people. Restoring the Third Rite of Reconciliation in Australia will take away from the duties of the dedicated priest as well as the people not having access to the Sacrament. It is used in extreme hard times and it not appropriate at the current time.

Parishes

Our small group resonated with a need to help an adult understanding of the Sacraments, and even parts of the Mass. Most members of group had experienced a growth in their prayer life through exposure to gatherings other than Mass. eg Alpha, Cursillo and small faith sharing groups.

Parishes

Some points raised:
– Desire for a faith practice that reaches the everyday experience of people.
– Increased involvement of lay people in life of the Church.
– Ecumenical services are important.
–  faith practice that is less formal, less structure, less emphasis on sacraments & more on the people who are here.
– Sacraments are a barrier to fully participating – have to be easier to get.
– Resources need to be available for the laity eg for doing a service at Murravale.
– Foster lay people to exercise roles in prayer/worship services eg homilies, Liturgy of the Word.
– Development of spaces and experiences for expressions of faith, new liturgies and prayerful experiences.
– The need for Communion for all & Eucharistic hospitality.
– Connecting and learning from Aboriginal spirituality.
– Help overseas priests understand Australian Catholic cultural practices.
– Acceptance of divorced Catholics receiving communion.
The following is the shared wisdom that emerged from our group discussion in Murrurundi regarding Worship and Prayer:
1. That Parishes be encouraged to be flexible in how they express their faith, not just through celebrating the Eucharist but via reflection sessions, prayer groups, new liturgies and other prayerful experiences.
2. That resources be made available that will encourage and empower lay people to lead/conduct services, for example in an aged care facility.
3. That Parishes be encouraged to offer a ‘spirit of invitation’ for  people to attend Parish events.

Parishes

Question 1: What resonated with us?
– Bishop Bill’s comment in his reflection -The people will encounter God and have an experience of awe in the Liturgy if they know what they are looking for.
– Coming back to that childlike simplicity that Jesus invites us to in our relationship with God.
– We agree, there is a strong belief amongst the youth in Catholic schools regarding social action & justice.
Question 2: What challenged us?
– Need to be open-minded. In getting the ball rolling in religious education through Catholic Schools, it will still take generations to get people back to Mass again.
– Many aspects need to be addressed in regards to reforming the religious curriculum (i.e. keeping up with modern science, feminism etc.). How are we going to do it?
– The sexual abuse history and its profound negative impact provide a challenging hurdle to bring people back to the Church in a bid to grow their Faith (which has been pushed aside) through worship and prayer.
– Holy Mass is not appealing to younger adults. Perhaps, in addition to Holy Mass, we can establish a ‘Pentecostal Prayer Meeting’ (Sunday night) where lay-people share testimonies and break-open the Gospel reading for that week. More involvement of the youth in the Liturgy, and how to do this?
– The need to focus on music style – what’s appropriate for Holy Mass and outside of it.
– Poor education on Confession. How do we combat ‘why go to a Priest for confession’ in light of the sexual abuse history?
Question 3. What’s the personal and communal invitation to us? (some communal covered in Q2.)
– Better catechesis in schools regarding all aspects of worship and prayer (Holy Mass, Liturgy, Sacraments etc.) –& revamp the religious curriculum.
– Our Story for this week invites us to be open to our Faith, be defiant and witnesses to our Faith (i.e. personally being that person who receives all the Sacraments, actively engages in worship and prayer even if the wider familial/school/friendship/social community doesn’t understand/rejects this form of practicing the Faith).
– We need Jesus’ nourishment from the Sacraments in order to carry out His work in the community. We must have the Holy Mass and prayer to complement and drive social justice.

Parishes

WORSHIP AND PRAYER
“We are sustained by the Word of Scripture and nourished on Eucharist” (“Building the Kingdom of God Together”Our Story p17) 
The Emmaus story speaks powerfully about recognizing Jesus “in the breaking of bread”. It also describes how the disciples’ hearts “burned within them” as they listened to His words. Today, do we “recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread”?
Some members of our group belong to small Mass Centres which are part of a large Parish with one priest. It is physically impossible for him to celebrate Mass every week in every Mass centre. There are also other Parishes in our Diocese which have been (and some still are) administered/led by members of Religious orders, Deacons and the Laity. One of our Mass centres celebrates with a SCAE every second week and we now have 18 parishioners involved in preparing and delivering the liturgy. We didn’t have a Mass in our Mass centre on Palm Sunday or Easter Sunday and were invited to go into the main church for these as well as for the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday. There are many elderly community members who cannot do this so the usual ecumenical Stations of the Cross were held at our small Mass centre with our Anglican friends who share the church. We also celebrated Easter with a SCAE and the liturgy was alive and joyful with a large crowd of all ages attending. We certainly did “recognize Jesus” in the Communion and in the proclamation of the Word. The risen Jesus was alive in our small community. Could this experience inform the Synod with regard to greater involvement for lay men and women “To exercise their gifts and talents in various ecclesial community settings, including preaching in the liturgical context”. (“Building the Kingdom of God Together” Recommendation WP3.1)
This supports WP1.1. There was also strong support for WP5.3: “That the Third Rite of Reconciliation be restored. Recommendation WP2.2 was supported to acknowledge that in our area there is at present 10% Aboriginal &Torres Strait Islander.

Parishes

1. Prayer, contemplation, conversion
The need for there to be more ways to express faith.
2. Eucharist
What is Aboriginal spirituality? What does this look like? Inclusion of Aboriginal Spirituality would be a great benefit. Falling mass attendance- the need for more engagement during mass- Homily a discussion between priest and congregation.
3. Homilies
Involvement of lay people. Sharing their story and their experiences. How the reading relate to their life and how it helps them.
See, Judge, Act- the need for there to be an action after mass instead of coming, listening, leaving.
4. Gathering other than mass
Agreeance with the need to share faith story from lay people. Connection to social justice. See, judge, act- a group that gathers to act after listening at mass and hearing a need.
5. Sacraments
Parishes are struggling to get volunteers to help run sacramental programs. Need for diocesan help? 

Secondary School

a. WP1.2 Space and experiences for silence, meditation etc be promoted and encouraged
Unfortunately we do not have this space available at St Clare’s. Sometimes a classroom is offered of a lunchtime (rare) but it is not the same as a chapel or something that is always open and available to students and teachers alike. This is so important.
b. WP2.1 “Do this in memory of Me
There are not enough opportunities for students or teachers to celebrate the Eucharist at school. Whole school, or whole year masses are few and far between. Some RE classes have mass on a rotational basis once a fortnight but not all can attend and it is not at a regular time where you can just turn up, for example 8am before school once a week.
c. WP5.1 and 5.2 We could offer better Sacrament preparation or encouragement to High School Students who perhaps did not attend a catholic primary school. Also those who completed all sacraments at age 8 (have zero concept) could have some sort of refresher in high school.
d. Doing all three Sacraments of Initiation at age 8 in one year is ridiculous. It places way too much pressure on parents and kids. The children are far too young to understand the importance of Confirmation and encourages families to just get it all done in one go and never go back to church. It needs to be staged over a number of years.

Parishes

We are 4 lay-women from various parishes who are mature in spiritual and communal out look; have a reasonable grasp of the history and doctrine of the Catholic Church, and have an awareness of where our Church ‘is at’ in Australia.   Collectively, we express our frustration and impatience at the obvious exclusion of women – who remain largely unacknowledged by the Church for their depth of spirituality, compassion, community building skills and leadership ability.

Such gifts could be offered by women to build up the body of believers, were they properly and rightly allowed to do so.  That we use the term ‘allowed’ speaks volumes of the weariness felt by many women of a continued, at times inept, dominance by a male hierarchy, when it need not be so. 

Our birthright as women living in a democracy, and as Christians, is to bear equal responsibility and recognition on building the Kingdom of God.

While we acknowledge the good the Church does in our Diocese, there is much territory left unwatered, underfed, and in the case of women – undervalued.  Our compiled comments re Worship and Prayer are as below:

Lay people – gifts recognised and acknowledged
Small spiritual communities appear to be slowly re-emerging
Men and women – could be commissioned to conduct ministries in the Church’s sacramental life.
Down to earth teaching on daily significance of sacraments.
Recognise potential of Catholic Charismatic Renewal to engage people in discovering Christ anew.

Other Organisations

1. Life in the Spirit Seminars are a way people can encounter Jesus in a real way. Can these become regular occurrences in the mainstream Church in different parishes rather than just offering to those in Charismatic circles?
2. The need for prayer partners, a group of two or three people supporting each other in prayer and mentoring each other through difficult times and our suffering.
3. Small groups- prayer meetings in parishes, bible studies – small groups are vital for faith formation and forming greater connection to God and the mission of the Church.
4. The “inner circle” of disciples and the trust that Jesus had in them – the call for the lay ministry to work in closer collaboration and a spirit of prayer with the Parish Priest towards the Church’s mission.

Parishes

#2. Eucharist:
Where does language of liturgy use sexist language? I disagree
#3. Homilies:
Allowing interaction on homilies would be better done after Mass as any discussion could cause homilies and in turn Masses to take a lot longer than many would like. 

Parishes

What Resonates:
– The need for “time out” with God as essential to the effective spreading the Kingdom of God.  
– Our worship and prayer needs to be based on a more solid general sophisticated understanding of scripture and this would also encourage the involvement of the laity in liturgy and the sacraments
What Challenges
– Practicing non-dualism in our lives.  
– Seeing a type of worship, inclusiveness, outreach and “specialness” in our Parish.   Our Mass is not joyful or welcoming-.
– Finding God through prayer and seeing each day as a holy place.
– Getting together as a community for prayer on events and matters we should share and pray for communally.
– To improve personal prayer life and get more out of the Mass.
– Better more relevant to life homilies “something to take with you” better scripture exegesis and challenges to our daily lives (Recommendation WP 5.2 is important).   The latter also needs to be done outside of the homily, but with care by these who understood the Church’s teaching.
– Clearer language needed on the Eucharist as both as becoming the body of Christ but also as the gift of a personal covenant and mission to go out.
– One feeling was that the focus in arguments for equal gender participation in leadership roles in the church should be less about attaining positions of authority than about service for both women and men. 
– “Degendering” language can encourage a more impersonal image of God – a trend that is gaining ground in a society that already feels comfortable talking about “the universe” rather than a personal God.
General Response
– Again, the material raised many issues that were agreed and understood, with some concerns about unjustified change by one participant, but the concern was more about the “how”than the “what”. 

Parishes

Do our teachers, schools, catechists, and parents (and all others imparting the Faith, including the Bishop):
(a) register the significance of the THIRD Commandment of the Decalogue, and the practical application of this in Canon 1247 of the Code of Canon Law: On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are obliged to participate in the Mass (c.f. p 2180 Cathechism of the Catholic Church; enclyclical Dies Domini of St Pope John Paul II). Of course this, like everything, still only fits into the big picture when we realise and desire the indispensable need to deepen our personal relationship with Jesus Christ which is the only reason for our hope  … or having a Synod for that matter;
(b) register, and seek to share, a lively faith in the tangible presence of God the Son, Jesus Christ (body, blood, soul & divinity), under the appearances of bread and wine in the Blessed Sacrament (para 1413. Catechism of the Catholic Church), and that the institution of such presence in the Mass is the very singular sacrifice of Calvary to which we are enabled to be present (para 1410 Catechism of the Catholic Church), and do we all behave and speak in conformity with such belief? 

Parishes

Worship and Prayer

I don’t really see the need for the Diocese to develop and provide new liturgical and prayerful experiences. There are plenty on offer. It’s a matter of person to person evangelisation and reaching out to others to make them come alive.
I think those who complain about sexist language in the liturgy need to get over it. God taught us to call Him Our Father, so who are we to complain.
There is a need for Communion for all, but that doesn’t mean all can automatically receive. There has to be the right disposition and, yes, a state of grace. This doesn’t mean we have to be perfect though, as the Pope has said. I’m a bit conservative about incorporating  rituals, dance, music and customs from other cultures into the liturgy. There might be a tendency to paganise things.
Better homilies and music are essential. Actually I find the overseas priests often give a better homily than our home grown clergy, albeit they can be harder to understand sometimes.
The sacraments of initiation need prayerful committed adults and young adults to be involved.
The sacrament of Penance needs a big promotion. I don’t think the Third Rite is a solution. If confessing one on one is good enough for the Pope it’s good enough for everyone else. Personal confession makes people think more seriously about what is going on with the sacrament.

A few items require more prayer and thought.
Third rite of Reconciliation should be only used in exceptional circumstances.
Communion for all? Recognizing the real presence, needs to be understood.. Laity preaching the gospel, with a good training course would be acceptable. Mass  a thanksgiving for the week past; Nourishment for the week to come.
More rosary prayers, prayer circles in every Catholic organization.

Parishes

Regarding WP 1.1
My recollection is that the “Face to Face” discussion paper on evangelisation prepared for a previous Diocesan Assembly made relevant points about relationship/personal contact being a vital precondition for people to respond to the invitation to explore issues/experiences of faith/spirituality/meaning. WP 1.1 assumes that advertising an event will be enough and we know it has previously failed to bring in a broad range of people.

Specific changes to recommendations:

WP 1.1 is similar to WP 4.1 and WP 4.2. The missing element is spiritual accompaniment and a “school of prayer”. Consider rewording WP 1.1 as: “That the Diocese facilitate opportunities for people to deepen their prayer life with people competent in spiritual accompaniment.”

WP 3.2 the more important point is that homilies speak to life experience. Consider rewording it as: “That homilists address the issues and opportunities of the everyday experience of the people. Homilist can gain insights from participation in groups where parishioners reflect on the Sunday readings.”

Consider a new recommendation: WP 3.5 “That the Bishop prohibit the celebration of the Eucharist where there is no congregation physically present.”

WP 4.1 reword as: “That meaningful ecumenical opportunities be provided for people to gather for fellowship, prayer and worship.”

WP 4.2 add “encountering God in creation” to the list of communal matters of significance

WP 5.3 reword as: “That the Third Rite of Reconciliation be offered as an option in our Diocese.”

Consider new recommendation: WP 5.5 “That foreign-born priests be empowered to minister across parish boundaries to support the faith life of people from their country of origin.”

Parishes

1. What we heard from listening to the Scripture event of the Transfiguration
The reading: Peter, James and John had the mountain-top experience, led by Jesus, and heard the voice of God repeat the words Jesus heard at his baptism: “This is my Son, my beloved. Listen to him”
A Call to listen to Jesus and to worship him.
2. How do we respond, listening in prayerful quiet as we consider WORSHIP and PRAYER?
Seek solitude as Jesus took Peter, James & John to the mountaintop)
Faithful to the prayers (identity as a community of believers)
Jesus taught his prayer, the “Our Father.”
Jesus gave an example of his own need to pray before challenging tasks.
3. How do we/ I witness to the Kingdom of God?
Strong presence at Eucharistic worship in our region
How can our local Church community help us to worship/ understand the liturgy?
How can we be available to listen to concerns about divine worship?
4. What are our/ my concerns about prayer and worship? NB WP1.2 (p.18),  WP 2.1 and WP 2.2 (p.18),  WP 3.2 (p.19)
5. What we believe/ understand from reflecting on worship and prayer to be “the VOICE OF THE SPIRIT”
As part of our worship show compassion, encouragement, and kindness as our Christian identity.WP 4.1; WP 4.3
– What we believe/ understand from reflecting on worship to be “THE VOICE OF THE SHEPHERD”
Jesus’ close association with these chosen friends. His desire for companionship with them (with us). WP 5.2; WP 5.3
– What we believe/ understand from reflecting on worship and prayer to be “GOD’S WISDOM”- that the Kingdom of God is near? WP 5.1
– We experience a call to reflect, meditate and contemplate especially during Holy Week. WP 4.1; WP 4.2
– “go apart”- how are we enabled to do this?
– “come with me to Jerusalem”.
We are called to a deeper discipleship.

Parishes

* We heard two (2) different recounts of an individual and a group experience of transfiguration-like events that were life changing for those involved.
* We discerned our common need to engage in regular and intimate prayer with our one God. We should know how to pray. We participate in Sunday mass and to a smaller degree weekday mass. At mass we praise God, we thank God and we ask God for His grace.
We have trouble filling rosters for lay roles at mass. Many of our congregation don’t like to get too involved. A common phenomenon.
* We are concerned with the falling numbers at masses in Singleton and throughout Australia.
* We considered what changes, if any, could be implemented to mass and other liturgies to make them more appealing to non-practicing Catholics and our youth in particular.  We see benefits in any change that may entice more to commune with us in our worship on a more regular basis.
* We considered whether music and singing similar to Hillsong type services might appeal to a larger demographic.  Our deacon, ……. is developing a choir. We believe singing hymns of praise was a particularly intense, rewarding and joyful form of worship.
* We recognised the difficulty the congregation have understanding ……..foreign accents during services. We believe, over time, that regulars will mostly become better at understanding but irregular and many of our elderly attendees will continue to struggle to understand. We considered how difficult it would have been for the native populations trying to understand the Aussie accents of Australian missionary priests who were evangelising overseas in years past. The shoe is now on the other foot. Communication difficulties between foreign clergy and the congregations needs to be addressed.
* We, as practicing Catholics, revere the celebration of the Eucharist. Most see the Eucharist as the source and summit of our life as Jesus’s disciples.  We pondered how earnestly at times we receive the Body and Blood of Christ, Jesus, our living God in the Eucharist.  We understand many non-practicing and some practicing Catholics struggle with the concept of Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist. We understand that this sacrament which so strongly binds us together as Catholics is also divisive and has led to schisms within church.
* We are fortunate and grateful for the services of our current priests and deacon in Singleton and recalled the times when we have relied on local lay ministers conducting Liturgy of the Word services in the absence of a priest. Our preference would always be for a priest but we feel most regular mass attendees would likely still attend lay led liturgies.
* We believe God is truly present not only at mass but whenever two or more assemble in His name such as Liturgies of the Word and other faith sharing activities. In private prayer also.
* We all liked the idea of the 3rd Rite of Reconciliation but learned it was reserved for troops going into battle.  We are mostly uncomfortable with the other two rites.
* We heard most parents only baptise their children so they can attend a catholic school.  It is common for most young Catholic families to skip their Sunday obligation. Some thought follow up visits by parishioners could encourage these parents to honour their baptismal promises.
*We agreed that most young people, despite their non-attendance at Sunday mass, were really pretty wonderful people, always willing to lend others a hand.  (I guess we would also agree that the same applies to most people generally).

Other Organisations

The following propose recommendations were discerned at the CDMN LGBTIQ Catholic Forum 21 March 2021 Contemplative Dialogue exercise and are requested to be added to the Worship & Prayer Recommendations:
Add a new recommendation
WP 1.3 LGBTIQ Catholic Forum provide opportunities for prayer, reflection and Eucharist which also include supporters and family of LGBTIQ people
Add a new recommendation
WP 2.3 Inclusive language in homilies, prayers and liturgy (inclusive of LGBTIQ people and gender neutral)
Conversations continue as to the prayer for/blessing of gay marriage in the Catholic Church context

Primary School

Resonated: Our children are disconnected from mass and the sacraments.  How do we as a school have an influence in sacramental programs which are run through the parish, are we using Parish educators that are able to connect with our children?  Having trained lay people being able to connect and relate to all parishioners is very important.  The link to ATSI culture and incorporating this into the mass is a refreshing idea. 
 
Challenge:  There are many people in the church who don’t want change.  Our aging population of parishioners is a reality.  How are we succession planning for the future?  The location of churches and the time of masses is something part of the reason that people are not attending mass.

Invitation: To create new and engaging ways to provide encounter for the youth of our church.  These are the future of our church and our schools provide a wonderful effort at evangelisation and Catholic Education, but it sometimes does not then extend to the parish and church.

Parishes

Concern that if the Third Rite of Reconciliation was restored it would diminish the ability for true self-reflection on one’s consciousness.

Parishes

Many face-to-face education/formation programs appear (may not be the case) to be conducted in “retirement” hours; if you work full time it is hard to find time to participate.
Could more programs be made available for private use at any time, i.e., podcasts, online learning programs about spiritual development, practises etc., that are EASY TO FIND and use. The diocesan website is not easy to navigate and not well advertised in terms of what it offers. There is obviously a huge amount of information available, but it needs to be very carefully arranged and presented so it is actually useful.
Much effort goes into attracting children (and the associated fees) to schools and day care centres. The Aurora seems to be full of stories about schools and students and little else. However, the focus on young people doesn’t result in increased attendance; young people don’t go to mass because their parents dont – ask their parents why they (the family) don’t go.
Candidates for the priesthood? Simple – stop being sexist. No other course of study/job is allowed to ACTIVELY DISCRIMINATE based on sex of candidates. Women be involved in the selection of candidates? Surely all (male and female) candidates should select themselves based on desire and belief, and that should include women if they so wish. Quite frankly, in this day and age I find it hard to understand how a man could sign up for the priesthood when it so blatantly discriminates against women. The hierarchy would rather import foreign priests than actually be fair and representative of all people in our community. I don’t recall Jesus saying that priests had to be male and celibate – it is literally a man-made construct and it needs to change. Change to reflect the real-world – you may see people coming back to church.

Others

Week 3  FORMATION AND EDUCATION:  Gospel Mark 9:2-9.   8/3/2021 Monday 10.00am
Found this a controversial section
Faith flourishes in times of adversity – we are and have been so lucky & faith is weakened
Becoming hyper-rational
Faith and reason always part of the church
Expectation that children should leave Catholic school fully formed Catholics
Faith formation as an on-going thing
Aim of faith formation – embracing a personal relationship with Jesus
Seeking relationship with God with others – we are being formed through others
In the past, have been great inter-church discussion groups – miss this
Thankful for Diocesan encouragement
Even if our adult faith formation is limited to Mass/liturgies, still get something new from these and homilies
Diocese attention going to what is publicly funded, e.g., schools, now childcare
If say: “kids aren’t coming to Mass because they are getting Mass at school”, what are we missing here?
Why we assemble for worship
Kids find Mass boring – we are dull
Why are we so boring –  materialistic society
Compare the Lord’s counter-cultural beatitudes
Young people want theatre, drama – “Mass is a liturgical drama”
Encourage a youth group to provide singing/music at Mass
Not clear what might be the criteria for selection of candidates for the priesthood
What are the criteria for assessing the ongoing formation of candidates for the priesthood?
Thankful for having some wonderful overseas priests in the Diocese
Question: what is “ontological”?  church-speak

Others

Week 3  FORMATION AND EDUCATION:  Gospel Mark 9:2-9.   8/3/2021 Monday 10.00am
Found this a controversial section
Faith flourishes in times of adversity – we are and have been so lucky & faith is weakened
Becoming hyper-rational
Faith and reason always part of the church
Expectation that children should leave Catholic school fully formed Catholics
Faith formation as an on-going thing
Aim of faith formation – embracing a personal relationship with Jesus
Seeking relationship with God with others – we are being formed through others
In the past, have been great inter-church discussion groups – miss this
Thankful for Diocesan encouragement
Even if our adult faith formation is limited to Mass/liturgies, still get something new from these and homilies
Diocese attention going to what is publicly funded, e.g., schools, now childcare
If say: “kids aren’t coming to Mass because they are getting Mass at school”, what are we missing here?
Why we assemble for worship
Kids find Mass boring – we are dull
Why are we so boring –  materialistic society
Compare the Lord’s counter-cultural beatitudes
Young people want theatre, drama – “Mass is a liturgical drama”
Encourage a youth group to provide singing/music at Mass
Not clear what might be the criteria for selection of candidates for the priesthood
What are the criteria for assessing the ongoing formation of candidates for the priesthood?
Thankful for having some wonderful overseas priests in the Diocese
Question: what is “ontological”?  church-speak

Primary School

The Church and Catholic community need to work together to continue to learn and connect so we all understand what it is to be the community of God.  School’s connect with Catholic community well through liturgies, assemblies, school Masses and mission day.  School staff have opportunities to learn and develop their faith.  Little for youths and young adults, other than is offered through school – this groups often feels uncomfortable and unwelcome, especially in terms of open dialogue and asking questions around faith and theology.

Others

Is formation and education for Catholics only?
Does this foundation offer anything for those who are not connected to the Church in someway?
Opportunities are increasing and are available for those people who are connected to the church. 
Parent engagement is low, and we need to start to include formation opportunities that are relevant and an easy way for all people to engage in meaningful faith formation.

Parishes

Week 3 Largs 11.3.21

Name the shared wisdom of the group
Effective communication to the wider community (not just the worshipping community) about what we have to offer people is instrumental to the continuation of our Church.
The group was very surprised by the number of different agencies there are that offer faith formation and were unaware that they have different formation opportunities on offer. Better explanation and communication to the community about these different programs is essential.
Sacraments of Initiation program needs effective teaching as many parents do not have the necessary faith formation to educate their own children in the sacraments.
In regard to Item 5 Candidates for Priesthood, the group strongly endorses FE5.1, FE5.2 & FE5.3.

Parishes

The Gospel idea of us being the sowers for the future was pertinent. We are hopeful of seeing a Harvest of change in our Church but acknowledge we might not see it. This seesaw of hope and disillusion is present in many. The Samaritans believed as they had ‘heard’ for themselves and we ‘he is “truly the Saviour”. From this we shared our faith experience of meeting and Knowing Jesus and most concluded it did not come in our childhood during Sacramental initiation but as a conscious and joyful seeing for ourselves. We thought education in schools and at home doesn’t equal experience of Jesus. Dialogue on role of schools – not places of great faith formation especially high schools, although they promote Catholic values young people are not coming to experience Jesus, personally. We saw a presumption of providing sacramental initiation as the bee all and end all and formation of young people and adults post-school as vital. We noticed an absence of seniors in the range of people needing faith formation – yet these make up the bulk of our congregation. How do we help people understand their need for formation? We noted that if many aren’t taking up what is offered by the diocese then maybe we have to rethink what is being offered. Most expressed a lack of interest in “educational “theological” courses and a desire for ones that are spiritually challenging and nurturing – and affordable for all. Training in pastoral care for priests and laity was seen as vital for building caring communities. Need for priest to do less admin and more pastoral work – words of Pope Francis encapsulates our dialogue “Unless we train ministers capable of warming people’s hearts…walking with them in the night…what hope can we have for our present and future journey”.

Secondary School

Formation offered by the Diocese needs to be diverse, so that it meets the needs of people. At the moment a lot of the Formation offered is the same and only appeals to a small amount of people, eg a lot is art based, which is of no interest to people who are looking for non-art based Formation.

The continued hiring of Priests from overseas should cease and instead there should be the use of SCAE of cover priest shortages.

Parishes

Week 3 Formation & Education
Our thoughts
Group found this week a little overwhelming; lots of material to ponder but did appreciate “the intention of formation….”on P20, particularly missionary discipleship with some discussion about “Intentional Discipleship” is this something that could happen, especially for younger people?

Despite knowing our role through Baptism, we did struggle to know how to have a real consciousness of & to act out mission to be making a tangible difference! The Gospel showed us what a difference one woman made to a town through her belief & the love & recognition Jesus showed her

Even though a small percentage of Catholics attend, about the only opportunity for faith formation is at Mass. We see engagement lacking, relevance of majority of sermons lacking, not related to life. We suggest greater involvement of the laity to give reflections on how scripture relates to life; somehow make liturgy of the Word more prominent & homily interactive, ask questions, come down to the people, the priest not to feel like he has all the answers. We thought it would be useful to have some laity meet regularly with the priest/s and reflect on Sunday scripture prior to preaching

We particularly resonated with recommendations FE 1.1/2; also FE 3.1 &  FE 5.1/2/3

Parishes

Jesus and the Church reaching out to social outcasts.
Jesus saying, “Give me a drink!” seemed a bit confronting and demanding.
Woman at the well didn’t  understand what He meant by “living water”. Jesus was willing to converse and have a relationship with her, allowing her to open her heart to Him. This helped her to reconnect with others in her town. It was formation leading to transformation.
Often unremarkable people, like the Samaritan woman, over the centuries were chosen to have visions of Jesus or Mary and became saints.
We can build bridges through everyday encounters by what we say and do.
Many Catholics were brought together and strengthened in their faith by such activities as Charismatic Renewal and ‘Cursillo’, as they provided an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to speak to people. Sadly these movements have declined in recent years.
Catholics need to be careful what new speakers we allow into our churches to ensure they are forming people according to true magisterial teachings rather than alternative theologies. There are key doctrines we can’t and ought not try to change and other things (according to the Hierarchy of Truths) that can change.
Technology allows us to access some good sound theological talks, but we must be wary of appealing opinionated untruths.
What Catholic theology and doctrines are being taught in our Catholic high schools? Students love the social justice teachings but are they being taught the more difficult moral teachings of our faith (on Marriage and sexual behaviour)?
The world today misconstrues freedom as avoiding commitments like marriage, which some see as a mere piece of paper. Some people come to us via RCIA as they are disillusioned with the ways of the world.
Its hard to reach out to people who stereotype us and ridicule our faith.

Primary School

Faith formation. I agree that there is limited faith formation opportunities for adults and specific groups. Currently, the Diocese does not have any free faith formation courses. There is a $480 year long course currently offered that involves assessments to receive a certificate of completion. As well as the partnership with ACU, offering a university level formation opportunity.
We need formation that is free and accessible. Short series that could be in person or online on various topics for formation. Without the need for assessments or a significant commitment e.g. year long.
In addition to having adult faith formation offered I would like to see formation specific for young adults run through the DCMYP. We have tried to get this up and running before however the Adult Faith Formation Council said we were unable to run the program at a Dio level, but if individuals wanted to run it at a parish level with support of their parish priest they could. I would like advice from the Adult Faith Formation Council on an appropriate program we could run on a Dio Youth level so to be able to reach a variety of young people across our Diocese to provide them an opportunity to grow in faith with a community.

Catholic Schools. It should not be solely the schools role to have students attend mass. It is great if we do have students attend mass on the weekend, however, with many students in our Catholic schools not Catholic, it is an opportunity for us to evangelise and guide our students on their faith journey where ever they are at. It is about producing students who have good morals, that understand the teachings of the Catholic faith, and know the love of God and can be the face of Christ to others. Students can express their faith in many ways that do not have to be going to Sunday mass. 

Parishes

Week 3
Establish good relationship with others regardless who they are and help them in their needs as much we can. Always try to be with them but not looking at them to be perfect. We need to learn to say everybody is good and do not judge others. Welcome every one regardless their faith.
Parents are the first teachers. Parents need to be educated and encourage them to talk about the importance of being a Christian to their children. They need to be educated and motivated with Christian values. Encourage them to have regular family prayers and gather all family members together, sit and talk. They need to encourage them to read a little topic of the bible every day so that children will observe them. This is how we can feed their spiritual needs.
Our school need to be more assertive on religious education and matters associated with it. More innovative measures to be adopted to instill religious faith in young ones because they are the pillars of the church. More formation classes through the school system to the young ones will inculcate in them the catholic values and that is the opportunity for them to learn about the importance of the Christian value in their life. Youth are generally reluctant to go for the formation programs due to fear of negative stereotyping.
Showing some video programs during the mass rather than having the same sort of homily every time and that can be done in the school as well. That will grab every ones attention and easy way of passing messages.

Secondary School

There needs to be focus on how to engage young people in the classroom with their faith to then build upon that with the Parish. As outlined in the recommendations resources need to “facilitate such conversations and to assist staff formation, including e-learning modules for significant elements in the religious Education curriculum”. Currently we are using these for staff, however it would be good to offer similar options to our older students at school to engage them in options of interest to them.
Also, there is little youth options for people outside of Newcastle. We need wider reaching youth programs for the whole Diocese, as most things take place in Newcastle itself. 

Parishes

Formation and Education
Fe 1.1  Many older members of the congregation are hungry to develop their understanding of the scriptures and for an opportunity to engage with theology evolving from developments in science.
Fe1  Three recent encyclicals from Pope Francis: Laudato Si, Fratelli Tutti and Evangelii Gaudiim  encourage engagement with the struggle to limit the disaster of climate change and consider the effects on the poorest in the world.
“Very few seem to use the  opportunities  provided by the diocese in faith formation. “When we organised speakers to come to Nelson Bay people were very appreciative.  Parishioners prefer not to travel across the Hunter region even to Newcastle for courses.
FE 3.1 An on the ground centre for formation as well as electronic access should attract more to formation.
Fe 4.1 There is an obvious absence of young families from Sunday liturgies. Schools struggle to have parent engagement because of the many families where both parents work.  Parents find it difficult to meet the child’s demand to participate in sport etc.
Recommendation
Promote the school itself as the liturgical centre, and the centre for ministry and mission.
Fe 5.1 In many other Christian communities the priest is chosen by the congregation.  Currently congregations are not consulted regarding the appointment of a priest.  Many priests in our diocese are not supported emotionally and socially by their congregations.
When a young man or woman feels called to serve as a priest or deacon the congregation should rejoice in and encourage their vocation.  Currently vocation is viewed as a very private matter.
Fe 5.2 agree
FE 5.3 Agree with the recommendation but also request that the priest is given emotional and spiritual support by his bishop, other priests, structures
 and personnel set aside for this purpose.

Parishes

FORMATION AND EDUCATION
Reflections by our Small Group
 – Education: Catholic ways versus Christian ways.
Our parents do educate their children by being good role models even though they may not be church goers. They may have different ideas about “being a Catholic” than people who want to see families as “practicing Catholics”.
– Faith is about “knowing God”. Education is a choice, sometimes a search or answering a “call”.
– If we availed ourselves of all the opportunities that “Our Story” says the Diocese provides then we should be having adequate formation.
Do they achieve 100% of what they set out to do? Probably not – people make choices about whether to be involved. We need encouragement, good publicity. We need to know why it is important to PRIORITISE “participating” in church activities.
Mass does not “FORM” us. And attendance is not as good as we would like. Mass online is a “convenience” these days. Some may choose not to come back.
– Catering to all age groups sounds good. Pre-school, Primary, Secondary and on to Youth Groups, TWEC Courses and Faith Courses –  now Diocesan based. It does not work as well as it might if people were prepared well to participate.
 – Websites and e courses don’t have the same personal interaction that faith interaction benefits from.

Others

“When the student does nothing but repeat not the same resonance, but a poor repetition of the master’s thought; when the student is no more than a student, even though he be the best of all, he will never generate anything. A student does not begin to create unless he introduces a new resonance (in other words unless he is no longer a student). Not that he should not have a master, but one must descend from the other by natural ways of fathering, not by the scholastic ways of discipleship.” (Charles Péguy, Cahiers VIII)
“For the living, organic nature of the Christian companionship there is nothing more contradictory than, on one hand the affirmation of one’s own opinion, of one’s own measure, or one’s own way of feeling as the ultimate criterion, and on the other hand pure repetition.” (Luigi Giussani, Generating Traces in the History of the World)
This is the key to faith formation and education. Not discipleship, not repetition, but sonship. This is the hard part: finding educators and students who are able to create the relationship that Jesus had with His Father. (John 5:17,19,36-37)
Formation is a life-long activity. It should be scripturally rich. In our fortnightly meetings in the movement of Communion and Liberation we share experiences of how we live, or struggle to live, scripture and our faith in our daily activities. It is a time of asking questions and discussing events. In fact, we call these meetings “school of community”. Our meetings are in the evenings, sometimes around 8:30 so that younger parents are free from domestic duties. The school often requires a great sacrifice because of tiredness and the need to prepare discussion around a theme. Many of those in CL have been faithful to this initiative since starting in high school 50 years ago! We are fortunate to be able to use Zoom or Skype, as when we meet we often have participants from far-away places (New Zealand, Adelaide, Brisbane, Singapore).

Parishes

Many face-to-face education/formation programs appear (may not be the case) to be conducted in “retirement” hours; if you work full time it is hard to find time to participate.
Could more programs be made available for private use at any time, i.e., podcasts, online learning programs about spiritual development, practises etc., that are EASY TO FIND and use. The diocesan website is not easy to navigate and not well advertised in terms of what it offers. There is obviously a huge amount of information available, but huge amounts of information need to be very carefully arranged and presented so it is useful.
Much effort goes into attracting children (and the associated fees) to schools and day care centres. The Aurora seems to be full of stories about schools and students and little else. However, the focus on young people doesn’t result in increased attendance; young people don’t go to mass because their parents don’t – ask their parents why they (the family) don’t go.
Candidates for the priesthood? Simple – stop being a sexist boy’s club. May not be that ‘simple’, but it’s what needs to happen. No other course of study/job is allowed to ACTIVELY DISCRIMINATE based on sex of candidates. Women be involved in the selection of candidates? Surely all candidates select themselves based on desire and belief, and that should include women if they so wish. The hierarchy would rather import priests than actually be a fair representation of all people in our community. Change to reflect the real-world.

Parishes

Cross over between schools and parishes should be encouraged.  It was felt that for the church to remain alive and well young people through our schools should be encouraged regularly to attend liturgies other than the Sunday Masses.  Adult formation for lay people should be encouraged in particular if parish councils become lay led.  Overseas priests were a problem if not properly inducted into the culture in Australia and especially if there English skills are lacking.

Parishes

WEEK 3 Formation and Education: 
Adult Faith Group Inner City Newcastle
A difficult topic, frustrating trying to get to grips with it.
FE 1
Support all the points in FE 1, but what’s the point of good resources if few use them?
Make sure the available opportunities are “well publicised” across the whole Diocese
Importance of FE 3.2 in this regard – effective communication.
FE 2    
Support FE2.  Also it is important we seek opportunities of collaboration with other Christian denominations to conduct courses e.g. the Spiritual Direction Formation Program (Uniting Church and Catholic Formators) currently in progress in its 3rd year of a 4 year course.  Our emphasis should be on offering opportunities to come to more communal things – a lecture, a group discussion etc, to spread the word in a meaningful way including the public domain?
FE 3    
Diocesan resource 1 or 2 visits each year by quality international speakers and have them speak in a venue that is open to the public.  Doing a good job in schools but need for effective communication methods in parish life.  Bring back announcements at the end of Mass for effective communication of opportunities.
FE 4.1 
The group thought  there may be a link between lack of social functions in the parish and less effective communication of available opportunities for faith development
FE 5    
Emphasis should be on be on guidance, not just review of performances.  Give emphasis to “support” and to “the values of servant leadership”

Parishes

Parishes need to be places that are welcoming. A community that speaks before and after mass and welcomes the stranger.
More activities organised to attract youth so that they feel part of the community.
Priests need to be more pastoral, they are often disconnected from the community.

Parishes

Need for a Diocesan Directory- what groups are in our community and diocese and what do they do.

Secondary School

Concern:
Religion Literacy Testing in years 4, 6 8 and 10 does not provide the opportunity for young people to encounter Christ. 
Teachers teach students in a rote fashion to make sure they achieve good results. Teachers are stressed about their student’s performance and will teach to the test.
Students are more disillusioned with understanding or accepting faith and encounter if they fail this test. This test is extremely damaging to a youth persons faith development, especially if the school is the only place faith is experienced.
Other Dioceses have stopped this practice as they have learnt it is not beneficial for young people. 

Primary School

Resonated:  The need to promote our Catholic Schools as Catholic schools, not private schools, there is a common misconception in many communities.  Diocesan employees may not have an understanding of what is happening in our Catholic Schools.

Challenges: The drop in youth going to mass.  The ability to accommodate families through mass times, children’s liturgy.  The involvement of women in the higher echelons of the church.  There continues to be a lack of voice for women in our church, we do acknowledge that this is improving.  The lack of understanding of what happens in our Catholic schools, there are parishioners that don’t realise the changes in education, from when they went to Catholic school. 

Invitations: To continue to encourage women’s involvement in the church.  Looking at how we can be more flexible for families for family masses.  Being able to strengthen the link between the Parish priest and the school as well as the parish.  Providing information to Parishioners on what happens in Catholic Education and Religious Education lessons within the school.

Other Organisations

The following proposed recommendations were discerned at the CDMN LGBTIQ Catholic Forum 21 March 2021 contemplative dialogue exercise, to be added to the Formation and Education recommendations:
Add as new recommendations:
FE 1.3 Formation/education about theology and human sexuality that incorporates science and the positive experience of people including LGBTIQ people (this is related to recommendation
7.1.3)
FE 1.4 Education and formation of clergy, parish/school leaders, students, people of faith and the wider community about the reality of LGBTIQ students and staff
FE 4.3 That Catholic schools be safe places for staff and students (No discrimination of LGBTIQ people when it comes to employment within the Catholic school system) 

Parishes

*We contemplated the verse from Gospel passage John 4:5-42 “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water I will give them will never be thirsty. The water I will give them will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”  One thought this meant that those who believe in Christ would have their spiritual thirst sustained for eternity. Another was able to correlate the words of Christ with our Eucharistic meal. Whatever this water is, it sounds pretty good and like the woman at the well, we all would like some. Maybe as believers in Christ, we have already received this water but just don’t realise it.
*We also contemplated the verse from the same Gospel “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to complete his work.” We mostly agreed that doing the will of our Heavenly Father and completing his work should be our spiritual food as well.
*We agreed that faith formation programs would be well received by the faithful but wondered how these might be delivered and what costs would be involved.
*We agreed that formation in the Catholic faith should be commenced at home from a young age by parents, reinforced at school by committed and well trained Catholic teachers and culminating in ongoing faith development throughout adulthood by participation in online or local formation programs.
*(We believe two (2) or more generations have been lost to the Catholic faith in Australia resulting in ever diminishing numbers of children having any grounding in faith at home.
*We believe many/most Catholic school teachers no longer practice their faith or are only career Catholics with little real zest in delivering Catholic formation unless it may lead to a promotion.  Our Catholic schools are hindered in delivering solely Catholic formation, having instead an obligation to deliver a much broader cross section of religious faiths as part of the RE curriculum, all part of accepting government funding.  We value those teachers who have remained committed to the delivery of faith formation, mostly with little or no support from parents.
*The only adult formation course offered in this diocese requires travel to Newcastle once a week over 40 weeks costing hundreds of dollars.  Personal study using the Diocesan online library is an avenue that can be utilised by all.  Formation does not appeal to everyone.
*We heard of some apprehension regarding the recommendations proposed in our booklets as “coming from the top down rather than from the bottom up” and possibly skewing or steering our responses to the concerns raised along predetermined paths.  Generally though, we mostly agreed with most of the recommendations.
*We mostly understood that the booklets were a result of feedback from both Plenary Council submissions and the Diocesan Synod assembly held in November 2019 and then considerable discernment of those submissions and feedback by both the Plenary Council and Diocesan teams. Personally, I thought the resulting booklet was a jolly good effort leading to some intense discussion/discernment about the future direction of our church.
*We heard reservations about recommendation FE 5.1 in particular concerning the involvement of male and female laity becoming involved with the selection process of priestly candidates but we all would welcome any changes that might improve the existing process of culling inappropriate candidates.
*We learnt of the Catholic teaching of priestly ontological difference. Usually used in psychology to express differing states of being in reference to the mind, the church believes priests undergo a mystical change in their state of being.  For those who believe in His divinity, the person of Jesus is good example of a human who had a different mystical state of being, fully human yet having a divine state of being.  Similarly for priests, although not divine, church teaches that priests are endowed with a divine role when ordained, and as such their state of being changes, enabling them to consecrate the bread and wine enabling their transubstantiation into the Body and Blood of Christ.  The concern raised in the booklet highlights a perceived separation of priests from the laity because of this doctrine.  I suspect some priests may, from time to time, get a little carried away with this teaching and have possibly been guilty of seeing themselves as slightly superior to their congregations. Holier than thou syndrome.  None of ours, at the moment, thankfully. The validity of the teaching could also be questioned by some but probably best left for another day.
*We agreed that parishioners should invite our priests and other clergy to our family homes for a meal or social visit more often in order to provide important social support and prove to them that that they are truly loved by their congregation and they should feel that they are family to us.
*We heard about some unwarranted negative sentiment regarding Father Thomas being arrogant.  We assured Thomas that he was not arrogant but perhaps some of his mannerisms may have led to this misjudgment. Thomas, who was present, was thankful, as always, for the feedback. After the group discussion Thomas was advised that whenever somebody says hello to him, even if in conversation with someone else, he should wholeheartedly respond “G’day Mate”
*We heard of discontent regarding a recent property proposal within the parish and dissatisfaction with the short time frame of only 1 week offered by Father Thomas for feedback by parishioners. There was also dissatisfaction with the printed material offered to parishioners being short on detail and diagrams too small and difficult to interpret. In the ensuing discussion we heard that the decision for what amounts to a significant sale of parish land was ratified by members of the parish finance and pastoral councils. Father Thomas was again thankful for the feedback and readily agreed to extend the feedback period and provide more legible and informative documentation.

Parishes

1. What we heard from listening to the Scripture -The Woman and Jesus at the Well
Jesus’ self-revelation /identity to the Woman who gladly responded to learning Jesus’ identity responded by broadcasting her new knowledge to her townsfolk with what great results.
How can we welcome people who consider themselves ostracised?

2. How do we listen in prayerful quiet for life-long learning in faith formation? FE 1.1 ; FE1.2

3. How can our diocesan Church community witness to the Kingdom of God in engaging us in formation and education? FE 2.1; FE 2.2;  FE 3.1;  FE 3.2

4.What are our concerns about formation and education? FE 4.1 ; FE 4.2

5.What we believe/ understand from reflecting on formation and education to be “the VOICE OF THE SPIRIT” FE 5.3; FE 5.2
What we believe/ understand from reflecting on formation and education, to be “THE VOICE OF THE SHEPHERD” FE 5.3; FE 5.2
What we believe/ understand from reflecting on this Theme  to be “GOD:S WISDOM” -that the Kingdom of God is near FE 1.1 ; FE1.2 FE 5.3; FE 5.2

Parishes

My recollection is that the “Face to Face” discussion paper on evangelisation prepared for a previous Diocesan Assembly made relevant points about relationship/personal contact being a vital precondition for people to respond to the invitation to explore issues/experiences of faith/spirituality/meaning. FE 1.2 assumes that advertising an event will be enough and we know it has previously failed to bring in a broad range of people. Consider rewording FE 1.2 as: “That a network of Formation teams be established across the Diocese in order to provide formation activities and to accompany people of formation activities.”

the existing resource library seems to provide what FE 3.1 is seeking. In a time of scarce resources I would prefer that we invest in people as per FE 1.2.

Could section 5 be refocused as “Formation for Ministry” it could then address initial and ongoing formation of lay and ordained chaplains and pastoral ministers.

Parishes

What Resonates:
– The essentiality of better adult faith formation and the accessibility and encouragement for such.   Without it, our Church will become an irrelevant anachronism.
– Our failure to reach the 99% of non-attending Catholics
– Recommendations FE 5.1 & FE5.2 re the formation of priests.
– Recommendation FE 4.1 re local school/parish communal conversations.
– Recommendation FE 2.1, which seeks to find out what is needed for better faith formation is of the highest importance.  
What Challenges
– Engaging young adults and parents in life-long faith development in an age of entertainment, consumerism, social media and 2 minute attention spans.    
– We need new priests/leaders with new views and approaches that relate to this demographic and the level they are at in their lives.  
– Convincing conservative “clericalist” clergy of the need for equal leadership involvement of the laity in parish leadership and in priest formation.
– Need to be a more welcoming church with an open-door approach.
– The older generation was not formed well in faith and have little to offer the current younger generation.
– Young people are often looking for a life philosophy of meaning and direction to follow and mysticism in their lives and try all sorts of things in this search.   We need to provide programmes/approaches that come from an understanding of where they are and what they seek.
– We need to focus more on the 1st Commandment and less on the adage that Christianity is about making the World a better place.
General Response
– Participants felt that most if not all of the cited existing formation programmes referred to under “2. Careful and Well-Planned Programs” were not well known or advertised and/or accessible to parishioners in the Nelson Bay area.  They were either cost prohibitive or too remotely located for practical attendance.   Any future efforts need to address this.

Parishes

#2. Careful Well-Planned Programs.
How well are faith formation opportunities made known?
Need to cater for shift workers.
#3. Resources.
I have one question about issues with resources: Why?
#4 Catholic Schools.
During Sacramental programs, what education is there for parents?
#Candidates for the Priesthood.
Trouble with the word clericalism. 

Other Organisations

Jesus said “My food is to do the will of the Father”
Everything in proper order- Seek ye first the Kingdom of God
We the Church need the Holy Spirit:
Holy Sprit our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Can’ t understand the meaning of suffering and death without holy spirit.
“If you ask I will give you the holy spirit
Jesus wants to renew and cleanse the temple
Jesus reaches out to the “pagan people”- How do we reach out to the “unchurched”?
“Where do we start?“ starts in the family
Small groups
Train the trainer- selecting people from local parishes, forming them, and training them to deliver formation in local parishes.

Parishes

Ignorance, relativism and disconnection is rife. Christ came to bring FIRE to the earth (Lk 12:49). Is that fire really the core of our purpose, and are we wanting to have that fire really ablaze in everyone?
1. More emphasis on and the regular and rigorous expounding of:
(a) The centrality of having and deepening our personal relationship with: Christ; God (the Father); and the Holy Spirit. “A Christian does not follow a religion, but a person: Jesus Christ.” (to quote Fr Rob Galea). The objective of our religious practices is only to serve and deepen our relationship with God, personally and communally;
(b) The importance to foster our desire to grow such relationship through personal prayer, and through frequenting what is revealed about God in the Bible (i.e. reading it!) so that we can always deepen our understanding and insight of our best friend, and to better perceive what He desires for us, as well as of us including in our dealings with each other.
a. In this point, the primacy is on our personal relationship with God and seeking to do His Will. What is called “social justice” should not be taken out of this context or made a purely structural issue isolated from individual justice and individual practice of the spiritual and material works of mercy to real individuals.
(c) The foundations of our Faith and the realities of the topics mentioned below, in light of both explicit scriptural foundations of such divine revelation as well as in light of the tradition as handed on through the living Church from the first disciples of Christ:
(i) God, the properties of God, and His causation for all that exists, and for the continuing existence of both anything at all, as well as of all things (visible and invisible). (“Invisible” includes angels (good or otherwise));
(ii) God’s love for us, and His plan for our salvation wherein He wants us to know, love and serve Him here on earth so that we can be with Him forever in Heaven; …
(less than 1/4 of the way through! … Apologies as I am going to test the word limit now)
(iii) The incarnation of God the Son, and his physical death and glorious bodily resurrection;
(iv) The Divine and Human natures of the second person of the Blessed Trinity (hypostatic union), never focusing on His human nature without no less acknowledging His divine nature.
(v) The holy women, Apostles and first disciples of Christ sharing their direct personal observation of Christ’s teachings miracles, including his bodily resurrection, and as the early Church their compiling the Gospels and epistles of the New Testament under the guidance of the Holy Spirit;
(vi) Heaven (also acknowledging how it (and hence the souls of the faithful departed, and perhaps even for them the General/Final Judgement) and of course God, are above/outside of our realm of time). 
(vii) Hell;
(viii) Purgatory (including the scriptural foundations for such teaching). The Holy Souls in Purgatory, and the value of expiatory prayer;
(ix) Death (as well as the meaning of suffering (in union with Christ’s suffering)) and
(x) Eternal life, including the resurrection of the body;
(xi) The need to be in a state of grace in order to be able to enter Heaven (even if via purgatory); and also in order to be in a suitable state to receive Jesus in Holy Communion, or to receive the fruits of other sacraments (e.g. holy matrimony);
(xii) Mortal Sin (what constitutes such a sin); Venial sin and the struggle against both;
(xiii) Virtues and morality in all the various areas in which we all struggle;
(xiv) The reality of evil and the Devil;
(xv) Sacraments, generally and particularly, focusing on the immense value and attractiveness of each:
a. The sacrament of Reconciliation;
b. Holy Communion
c. also Baptism (its types) and its necessity;
d. Holy Matrimony, and Confirmation; Anointing of the Sick; & Holy Orders.
(xvi) The Real Presence of Jesus, body, blood, soul and divinity in the Blessed Sacrament (and the concomitant presence of the other two persons of the Blessed Trinity). To take real care to use language and gestures which are in conformity and in acknowledgement of such reality, and to avoid any language which confuses or diminishes such clear aspect of our Faith and its scriptural foundation;
2 Encouragement and facilitation of:
(i) The frequent use and viewing of, listening to, catechetical material (preferably now audio-visual) both in all Catholic schools (and scripture lessons in Public schools) and in all parishes (including at convenient times, perhaps following or preceding Masses), that are expounding sound doctrine founded in Holy Scriptures and the teaching of the magisterium.  An abundance of material is available from presenters and groups who are passionate and knowledgeable about the immense treasures that can be found in exploring the depths and intriguing aspects and insights of our Faith and the many holy Saints who have left such wonderful teaching and examples for us all (both young and old etc.). It is potentially quite counter-productive to continue to rely on material which is not solidly founded or focused, full of moral relativism, neglect of, or sloppy presentation of, doctrine, and which furthermore can be also be unattractive and dull, presumably prepared in a corporate mindset, and not whilst on fire with love of God and His Church. 

Parishes

We are 4 lay -women who are mature in spiritual and communal outlook; have a reasonable grasp of the history and doctrine of the Catholic Church, and an awareness of where our Church ‘is at’ in Australia. Collectively we express our frustration and impatience at the obvious exclusion of women – who remain largely unacknowledged by the Church for their depth of spirituality, compassion, community building skills and leadership ability.

Such gifts could be offered by women to build up the body of believers, were they properly and rightly allowed to do so.  That we use the term ‘allowed’ speaks volumes of the weariness felt by many women of a continued, at times inept, dominance by a male hierarchy, when it need not be so.  Our birthright as women living in a democracy, and as Christians, is to bear equal responsibility and recognition in building the Kingdom of God.

While we acknowledge the good the Church does in our Diocese, there is much territory left unwatered, underfed, and in the case of women – undervalued.  Our compiled comments re Foundation and Education below:

Most parents of children at catholic schools not interested in faith development for selves/children.
Church to be relevant – doctrines to be revisioned in the light of science and general knowledge of people in 21st century.
Adults continue to be treated as children – however we accept responsibility to educate ourselves.
Recommendations of FE3.1 and 2 crucial – to establish a Diocesan Formation Centre and an engaging website to encourage life-long learning in matters of faith and spiritual development.

Parishes

General statement from participants that  our faith development has not been strong in recent times. Our current and recently former priests have been active in encouraging and supporting faith development and this has been most welcomed and supported.

Discussion about faith formation in Catholic schools, how we as parishoners can actively engage and support staff and students at our local Catholic school

Recognition that the lives of people can be an inhibiting factor in there attendance at Mass.   Other options, including social media, could be employed to reach out and give people a  means of nurturing their faith, which may lead to their participation at Mass.

Secondary School

a. FE4.1 – Faith Formation at school VS the RE syllabus….. hmmmm
b. FE5 – just in general, why has the issue of female priests and married priests not been mentioned here?

Parishes

1. Better Faith Formation – Need for people to feel welcomed, safe, secure to develop their faith
2. Careful, Well-Planned Programs – There may be programs available but there is little awareness of the programs and where and how people can get formation.
3. Resources – Diocesan Formation Centre- What would this look like? Would it be a place where people can gather. E.g. those new to the faith, a place to gather and be with others. Like a relaxed cafe environment. A place of socialisation and learning. Appealing for youth to elderly parishioners old and new.
4. Catholic Schools – Concern about Catholic schools becoming too secular as many teachers are not religious. Struggle to teach the religion. There could be a priest presence in schools, involved in community events.
5. Candidates for priesthood – Concern about cultural differences – need for priests to engage with parishioners on a more personal level outside of church. Helps everyone to understand each other better. 

Secondary School

From the Foundational Statement: “For the Catholic School to achieve its objectives, it needs people who are committed to this faith-filed vision, confident in their understanding of the Christian faith as it comes to expression in the Catholic tradition and eager to do their best to help their students grow in their own understanding of the presence of God at work in their lives” This statement needs to be at the forefront of the RE syllabus- what it is we teach in Religious education. So many of our Catholic school students are not Catholic and so do not have the background needed to have a foundation once they come to high school and those who have a Catholic education find it hard to follow as the syllabus is so content based on facts and the definitions they need to memorize and regurgitate in an online test. What students learn at school should encourage them to come to Church – to enjoy the faith and be apart of it, not be discouraged by how much they are expected to learn in Religion education classrooms. If the students are interested it may encourage their families to also attend Church.
For a Christ centered Church and school what we teach needs to reflect the community – our lives and how God plays a part in that. Students need to focus on being Christ like and what that means and they need teachers who have a faith and believe in something bigger then themselves or the subject area they are teaching – we need to have support for teachers and students to love Religion not dread it as it requires so much working memory and not on feeling and the encouragement to believe and have faith.

Parishes

FORMATION AND EDUCATION
The statements in What we Heard resonated with our group, however this area was challenging. Recommendation FE1.1 & 1.2 were welcomed as there are many parishioners whose approach is pre Vatican II and whose voices resonate strongly with the Parish Priest. At times this has been a source of disunity in the Parish. We appreciate that there have been excellent opportunities offered by the Diocese for ongoing Adult Faith formation. However, the parishioners are not always aware of these opportunities as they are not always advertised either in the Bulletin or by the Parish priest. 
Recommendation FE5.3 had strong support : “That there be appropriate supervision and performance review throughout Seminary formation and beyond to Parish ministry.” Some group members questioned the training of Diocesan priests as compared to the training of Jesuit priests for example.

Parishes

Formation and Education
Formation teams sounds like a good idea, but schools and families are really the key. More resources, both human and material, needed for SRE.
Catholic schools have largely lost the plot with Faith formation: too many poorly trained and uncommitted teachers. Students don’t learn what we believe and practice. I think we need fewer school masses actually. Students don’t value or understand what is going on. There’s no reverence or sense of the sacred.
The solution to faith formation in Catholic schools? I don’t know, but better trained and more committed and practising teachers is a first step.
Candidates for the priesthood: encourage them please. If faith is developed they will materialise.
Parents are the prime educators of their children. They have busy lives. An online course which could start before the child is Baptised,  then continuing to the Sacraments of Initiation. Occassional meetings with other parents. This would ensure all parents and their children had a good foundation to guide their children on their faith to journey.

Parishes

Question 1: What resonated with us?
– Topic of this week and week 1 go hand-in-hand. Bishop’s reflection of Jesus reaching out to the Samaritan woman.

Question 2: What challenged us?
– We may still be considered ‘holy Joes’ by society – church of do-gooders for the ordinary person, church of pedophiles. For some of us growing up, we thought we had to be perfect to be a part of the Church, let alone a Priest. Thus, how do we get the message out there that ‘every person who makes up the church is human, including the leaders of the Church and so we are prone to not being perfect.’
– Scripture sessions in state schools draws on joint denominational approaches and has formal training. There is some formal training by the Catholic Church, but not enough. How do we get more training?
– There are teachers who catechise the children. But there is no one to catechise the parents. (i.e. Sacramental programs – nothing for parents). Thus, if parents aren’t showing their faith, that will translate to the children.
– #2. Careful Well-planned Programs: Many of these are not well advertised and there is lack of uptake of these programs (perhaps due to online courses being expensive, not catering to working individuals, accessibility is an issue – no mobiles, internet, computers etc.)
– Some schools have programs in place which are being implemented but aren’t necessarily getting to all kids. (i.e. some kids are not dramatic if there’s a drama production on for Christmas or Easter)
– Why do we have males as priests to be a true leader of the Church? Can’t we open it up to females? Church teaching on this topic is poorly understood thus, poses a challenge in a society with secular and feminist views.
– It’s concerning Catholic Schools are watering down our Faith. They are not publicly advertising the religious aspect and not referencing Christ (i.e. recent advertisement of Catholic Schools over the radio). Christian Schools first and foremost reference Christ before speaking of other values of the school.

Question 3. What’s the personal and communal invitation to us? 
– Within the diocese, we need to work towards accepting outsiders.
– Many parishioners who come for Mass have perhaps already done courses in the past and so understandably do not want to take up any more courses. Thus, we must find ways to connect with younger adults and go outside of the Church (i.e. other organisations) to promote them. They may be open to these programs.
– The Church should pay qualified teachers (who have been formally trained in SRE and formation) to go to State schools for teaching Scripture. The resources are there, but they’re not promoted or updated. Thus, need to open up the resources and also put out a number of opportunities to reach out to individuals –& increase uptake.
– Have workbooks made up for parents to catechise the children – may be suggestion in bringing the whole family back to church and not just for Christmas or Easter or Sacraments of Initiation.
– REC within school should have basis of knowledge to reach out to parents for formation.
– Offering faith formation for parents when they enrol their children in Catholic Schools.

Parishes

Some points raised in our group discussion on Formation and Training:
– Training everyone, lay leaders & teachers etc., to have vocabulary for today’s society.
– Embed Aboriginal culture and spirituality in the life of the Church.
– Connect with other denominations and faiths.
– Education in faith, how Catholics see the world, not constrained by language people don’t understand.

The following is the shared wisdom that emerged from our group discussion in Murrurundi regarding Formation and Education:
1. That a Diocesan Formation Centre be established.
2. That a network of Faith Formation Teams be established, with at least one of these being accessible to the Upper Hunter area.
3. That Faith Formation Courses available to the laity be decentralised so that they can be accessed by people in rural/remote locations.
4. That improved collaboration between Catholic schools and Parishes be actively encouraged in the Diocese
5. That part of school student formation should be that they are encouraged to see themselves as a vital part of their local parish.
6. That a broader cross-section of the community be involved in selection of candidates to the priesthood.
7. That formation and training for priesthood and during their ministry give emphasis to the values of servant leadership, collaborative ministry, human sexuality and the dangers of clericalism.

Active Clergy

There is a need for decisionmaking upon this Foundation to have the opportunity to draw upon contents and insighs provided by Amoris Laetitia. This will more strongly help us reflect the wisdom of the worldwide Catholic communion. It is a document the fruit of two years of meetings of worldwide bishops with Pope Francis. There seems no specific mention of this document here. nor is there is any direct reference to Laudato Si, and the call to ecological conversion, a subject matter of crucial importance to Pope Francis’ teaching ministry. on the subject matter of Candidates for Priesthood, the Recommendations for formation will be greatly enriched if the vision for formation specifically draw from the newly published Directory for Catechesis which includes guidelines like:
 “… an adequate formation of future priests and deacons will become evident in concrete signs; passion for the proclamation of the Gospel, ability in catechising the faithful, capacity of dialogue with culture, spirit of discernment, willingness to form lay-catechists and work with them…’ (DC 151). The Directory refers to the Catechist as those who “exercise a certain form of authority” (DC#142), and with whom the ordained are to share in a ‘co-essential’ exercise of charisms and ministries (DC# 288). “Catechesis has a close relationship with the pastoral care of the family, young people and vocations, as wth pastoral care in schools and universities…” ( DC#420)

Others

Better Faith Formation: Sign up for Parish account on Formed, so parishioners can access the content for free so it may help deepen their faith life.
Catholic Schools: Bridge the gap between church and school community. Is there active involvement of the parish priest in the school? Can we create a community or space where parents are able to evangelise and deepen their faith?
 

Parish Lay Leaders

More work needs to occur regarding the RCIA in the Diocese, in particular at the parish level. There has been a re-imagining that hasn’t yet been fully realised. It is a journey that ALL members of our diocese need to get on board with. The exploration of mystagogy with our neophytes, for example, is an important step in this RCIA journey. It doesn’t just finish with the baptism of the catechumen. 

Other

Throughout all five sessions, to enable us all to further build the kingdom of God by becoming more Christlike , the group endorsed the aims, inclusivity of all recommendations and the intention of honest and open dialogue. The group is hopeful,
1) Throughout, the importance of the POWER of prayer and the need to make available a variety of experiences in a variety  of settings was expressed.
2) The pulpit was seen to be an opportunity where more education and interactive dialogue could take place where appropriate either within the homily and/or after Mass.
 Expressed was the need for more information on changes or developments in church understanding of long held tenets to be related clearly via pulpit and other means where appropriate – eg gay lesbian stance etc
3) Male and female candidates for the priesthood was strongly suggested. Endorsed was the widening of the scope of  laity to participate in delivering homilies etc  
LS31 was greatly endorsed by the group.

Agencies

There are a lot of things that the group agreed with in the booklet but for the reason of the submissions, would be focusing on the disagreements.
Many young people are time poor and often come to faith when something in life gets them down.
In these moments they need people pointing them to Jesus. There needs to be a foundational group to journey with, guide and be present to young people.
Catholic schools are not succeeding in helping students to encounter Christ. It takes a whole of community approach. 
When there are negative comments made about overseas priests it can sometimes make people who are not from Australia feel unwelcome in the church
Young people are time poor and with no time to experience God, they need to be active in finding the time to find God. They need a space to experience him. That’s what drives someone to know him.
Accompaniment ministry is key, having people to journey with, to be patient, encounter and  let them find faith on their own terms.
We want a church that is accessible to people with disabilities and provides equal access.
The church needs a good retention strategy where there are dedicated teams of volunteers or paid employees who can mentor and journey with young people to navigate the synthesis of faith and life in its fullness. Furthermore, there needs to be a sustainability plan to continue to grow new volunteers as there would be a turn-over.

Parishes

We can find example of formation in the Gospels & Acts of the Apostles, with regard to being more Christlike, in a very practical sense.  It doesn’t need to be complicated.  So we should use the resources that are already provided by our Diocese to help us. Unfortunately our group believes that people aren’t aware of these & not everyone has access to the Website or would even think to look for a website.
The group believed that better preparation of some priest’s homilies,  including delivery that is to the point, interesting & being able to be heard. A consideration may be that the homily could be printed in the bulletin, or a guide in the bulletin where the homily could be found. Space in the bulletin could maybe be found by having parts of the Mass on the screens in the Church.
Can the laity be trained to deliver homilies, that care scrutinised for error.
Trying to bridge the gap between school & home in an effort to bring young people to Mass, perhaps involve children as readers etc.,

Parishes

Formation & Education – In Week #3 we saw specific recommendations regarding ways of getting people more involved in the Church’s activities. We discussed the term “More than Mass” to describe what being an active Catholic was all about. The recommendations made in the Week #3 were well received. Recommendation FE2.1 was seen as a big step and will require a great deal of attention and resources to be effective. It is important that focus groups from all Parishes in the Diocese are used in compiling the report suggested in FE2.1. Once again there was discussion about the disconnect between the School and Parishioners at Forster-Tuncurry. Recommendations FE4.1 and FE4.2 will hopefully lead to steps that will bring them closer. The section on Candidates for Priesthood was an area of concern especially given that there is a serious shortage of candidates for the priesthood. We felt that there could be more transparency on what is being done by the Church in Australia in this regard.

Others

Comments from participants in our group.
All children not in loving and nurturing families.
Children do not have example and aspiration
Children need mentoring, but problems exist with children being abused.
Problems with church and society in general.
Training people in formation difficult. People need to be able to get the message across.
Teachers in schools should pass on the faith. All teachers are not Catholic now.
Our Story example to journey with others not condemn them.
Agree that we need a dedicated Formation Centre in the Diocese, as well as an online website for information.

Parishes

Lenten Program Wisdom Summary Faith Matters Group –  Inner City Newcastle
Week 4 MISSION and OUTREACH:  Gospel John 9:1-41.  
What resonated  –
A powerful gospel
Insight of the man born blind, acting on what Jesus told him to do without questioning it; having the courage to call out the Pharisees.
The one thing I know – what he did for me.
Emulating Jesus outreach – going to find the man after he had been driven out by his community.
The work of attraction – joyful and grateful disciples.
The need to live what we believe.
Our Faith conviction shines through us and becomes a witness.
Keeping the four foundational statements in mind.
Awareness of people still hurting a lot.
Giving more attention to Laudato si.
Noted MO 1.2 – emphasis on grounded in personal encounter with Jesus Christ and building genuine relationships in our communities as we are all created in the image of God
Gathering the wisdom of the group:
If we are living the joy of the Gospel it will be attractive to others.
Celebrating our differences and sharing them through relationships
The work of attraction is to present the light of Jesus in the community.
Sometimes we seem to be better at multiculturalism when it doesn’t include First Nations people
Rift between the Church and the groups of the poor and disenfranchised in the community
Awareness of groups who don’t see the Church as a friend;
Liturgical Ceremonies which strengthen our culture through inclusion of First Nations people. 
Our differences are created by God – We need relationships with each other, at Mass, in discussion groups.

Parishes

Week 4 Mission and Outreach Largs 18.3.21

Name the shared wisdom of the group: 
“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 are called to move out of our comfort zone, to offer random acts of kindness, and NOT rely on agencies, on “others” to respond to the needs of others.

Parishioners would benefit from a list of activities of tangible responses, that name practical, achievable actions within our parishes, that we can do or become involved in, and that do not require “an agency” to do on our behalf.

Primary School

Within the recommendations and concerns section 4 on Catholic Social Services we did not find it appropriate that homeless, gay, divorced, disabled groups, etc. were referred to as “fringe” members of the church and that we need to provide chaplains and churches for them as this is how it came across. We need to be an inclusive church that does not ostracize them.
In addition to this the part where it was suggested that Christ has been taken out of the various agencies including Catholic Schools. They are deeply rooted in Christ and his teachings. For example, the CSO’s vision and mission statement is “At the Heart of Everything is Jesus Christ” it is what we endeavor to do in the day to day work we do.
The point on encouraging speakers once a year at every Catholic parish about works and volunteer opportunities – we already do this with Vinnies, Catholic Mission and Caritas (as I have myself done some of these myself) but we agree it would be good to see this expand to more agencies and works.

Within the recommendations and concerns section 3 on community outreach, I found in the recommendations regarding young people that we are already in the works of MO3.7. We (DCMYP) are currently utilising documents such as Christus Vivit to guide us in our youth ministry, to reimagine the church’s ministry to young people by meeting them where they are at, tailoring what we do to their needs.
I agree that we need to have dialogue across Dioceses and other faith groups to find out ways to engage young people. Even across other Christian denominations, we can learn so much from the influence they have on and the initiatives they run with youth as they seem to have a strong youth engagement. We can learn from them and utilise this in our own Catholic Diocesan context.

Other

WEEK 4 Mission and Outreach, the response I have is that after being empowered by the Holy Spirit we are charged to go out to do good works that each person decides on for themselves. Our group decided that it was important for Christians to give their testimonies so others can know the love of Christ


Parishes

Like the man born blind, conversion is often through experience. People are drawn to Christ by the way we treat them.
The skeptical Jews wouldn’t accept Jesus because they’d turned Moses into a god. How do we overcome such blind arrogance? Let’s not be discouraged if we can’t draw many to faith now, since even Jesus couldn’t change the hearts of the Pharisees.
Yet, we are given hope in seeing souls come to Jesus through RCIA and our Church still strong after 2000 years. Let’s remain compassionate, grateful and keep deepening our relationship with Jesus.
We acknowledge part of the problem is people are creatures of habit who find it hard to embrace change, especially in a very busy world. Faith requires commitment and responsibility causing some to defer it till a later time.
Simple things like everyday conversations and kindness are ways of sharing out faith. We rejoice we have been blessed with the gift of faith and are not discouraged.
God is evident in the marvellous wonders of nature, giving us cause for awe, yet we can easily take it all for granted. Thankfully our Catholic schools are now encouraging our very young to reflect on such wonders.
Part of the problem is many in society hardly need to think anymore as everything is given and decided for them through technology. At the same time countless young people and children are suffering anxiety. We all need physical connectedness with others and friendships.
Our technological world now is not devoid of ˜religions. In a sense there are too many religions: veganism, environmentalism, BLM, etc are all embraced as kinds of religions.
Once many people went to a church on Sunday as that was just the way of life. We are now a smaller practising Christian community, but are more fervent and filled with hope. 

Parishes

We all need to share our godly experience with others regardless what other say or think about you just like the blind man. We should gain that courage through prayer and meditation to tell about Jesus and all his blessings you have received in your life.
A combined voice need to be raised to teach Christian values in our schools with other Christian groups.
It has been raised that many catholic students are studying in public schools due to unaffordable fees structure. There may be a resolution need to be made to restructure the fees according to the income of catholic parents that may encourage parents to send their children in catholic schools.
Try to find out others need and help them. If someone is hungry he needs to be fed first before sharing your faith with him.
In modern day the family values and relationships are diminishing because parents hardly get time to spare with children. Many parents rely on after and before school care and they get less time to attend their children in their social and emotional needs.

Primary School

The Church needs to interact and help others without expectation of anything in return.  These acts of care, compassion and forgiveness will always bring positivity.  This week held a strong sense of hope for the future of the Church.

Parishes

We agree with the MO 1.1 and MO 1.2
MO 2.1 What greater need is there than an engagement with those working to transition jobs out of coal mining. The Church should be visible in speaking out against the exploitation of workers’ rights.
MO 2.3 What actually is the dioceses doing about making sure each parish has a 7 year plan for limiting their carbon footprint?  What principles for development of that plan have been set in place?
MO 2.4 Agree
MO.5 Strongly support this.
MO 4.1 Those employed by the diocese be encouraged to see their job as mission for the building of the Kingdom.
MO 4.2  Agree

Others

 – All people empowered and engaged to go on mission and outreach to those outside the Catholic Church.
 – Include rituals of other cultures for special occasions – for example: smoking ceremonies, acknowledgement of country, music etc.
* Acknowledgement of Country should be said at the beginning of every Mass and/or liturgy.
 – Inform people about what is going on in the Diocese, e.g Ecumenical space, Aboriginal Catholic Ministry, what we stand for rather than what we stand against! Reports should be given to every Parish (on a Sunday at Mass) once or twice a quarter, so all people know what is going on within our Diocese.
– Have an obvious face of being a church of mission and outreach in our community. More than the “informed” Catholics should know about what services are available.
– We should have a real presence in the local community. Celebrating outdoors in a space that anyone can attend.
– Holding parish picnics at popular parks where all people feel safe. Aim to get to know one another and the parish priest and parishioners in an environment where people can just sit and listen and not feel awkward about not knowing what to do during a Mass.

Parishes

MISSION AND OUTREACH
We spoke about Evangelisation being an act of Attraction and therefore the most important task for us was to establish and nurture a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Such a relationship makes us people of joy, hope, forgiveness, love and peace and makes us attractive to others.
There was some concern about the statement “Christ has been taken out of St Vincent de Paul” and indeed we commented that since the Society has become an incorporated entity the emphasis seems to be on financial success. A former member commented that a slogan of the Society was that it was “in the business of going broke.”  Its aim was to dispossess itself of money for the sake of the poor. That doesn’t seem to be evident today.
In terms of Faith Formation we reflected on the changes in the Church and indeed throughout society over the last 50 years. Some have called it a “civil rebellion”- a rebellion against authority. As far as the church is concerned this means we have come from a time when our spiritual guidance came solely from the clergy to now taking more responsibility for our own faith life. Some years ago people with very responsible jobs in society were unwilling to make simple decisions in their faith life without guidance from the clergy. We now have a tendency to question church teachings and to take responsibility for decisions in our faith life. This shows a maturity in our faith life and a deeper dependence on our conscience (which are both again dependent on a healthy relationship with Jesus Christ).
We felt MO 3.2 was important. We can learn much from the Aboriginal people’s spirituality especially concerning the environment.
MO 3.6 is a wonderful opportunity to combine with other churches on Social Justice issues. The Uniting Church are particularly active in this area.
Unfortunately the Church continues to alienate the LGBTIQ community.

Others

Then came, at a predetermined moment, a moment in time and of time,
A moment not out of time, but in time, in what we call history: transecting, bisecting the world of time, a moment in time but not like a moment of time,
A moment in time but time was made through that moment: for without the meaning there is no time, and that moment of time gave the meaning.
Then it seemed as if men must proceed from light to light, in the light of the Word,
Through the Passion and Sacrifice saved in spite of their negative being;
Bestial as always before, carnal, self-seeking as always before, selfish and purblind as ever before,
Yet always struggling, always reaffirming, always resuming their march on the way that was lit by the light;
Often halting, loitering, straying, delaying, returning, yet following no other way.
But it seems that something has happened that has never happened before: though we know not just when, or why, or how, or where.
Men have left GOD not for other gods, they say, but for no god; and this has never happened before
That men both deny gods and worship gods, professing first Reason,
And then Money, and Power, and what they call Life, or Race, or Dialectic.
The Church disowned, the tower overthrown, the bells upturned, what have we to do
But stand with empty hands and palms turned upwards
In an age which advances progressively backwards?
T.S.Eliot from Choruses from " The Rock " (1937)
Our mission is that described by Eliot almost a century ago: a struggling to reaffirm the Light of the world (John 9). The arguments discussed this week were all about the how we can live faith through services in the broader community in which we live. The risk, as raised by some, was that we become as Pope Francis said, a Not-for-profit Organization. A way of avoiding this is to be active in charitable organizations based on the principle of Subsidiarity (week 5). Smaller, local groups, acting independently but in constant contact with the whole faith community. This is greater challenge today because of all the rules and regulations, but not impossible.
The mission to be the Light of the world is not about what we do, but who we are. In our movement (Communion and Liberation) we are all called to gratuitously dedicate time to acts of charity, and be missionary both through giving a helping hand but above all through the way we do these acts. We strive to act as a community in approaching a need we see, and an important aspect of charity work is a regular moment in which we share our experiences and talk about how we are transformed by what we do and see.

Parishes

Lenten Program Wisdom Summary Faith Matters Group – Inner City Newcastle
Week 4 MISSION and OUTREACH:  Gospel John 9:1-41.  
What resonated  –
A powerful gospel
Insight of the man born blind, acting on what Jesus told him to do without questioning it; having the courage to call out the Pharisees.
The one thing I know –  what he did for me.
Emulating Jesus outreach – going to find the man after he had been driven out by his community.
The work of attraction – joyful and grateful disciples.
The need to live what we believe.
Our Faith conviction shines through us and becomes a witness.
Keeping the four foundational statements in mind.
Awareness of people still hurting a lot.
Giving more attention to Laudato si.
Noted MO 1.2 – emphasis on grounded in personal encounter with Jesus Christ and building genuine relationships in our communities as we are all created in the image of God
Gathering the wisdom of the group:
If we are living the joy of the Gospel it will be attractive to others.
Celebrating our differences and sharing them through relationships
The work of attraction is to present the light of Jesus in the community.
Sometimes we seem to be better at multiculturalism when it doesn’t include First Nations people
Rift between the Church and the groups of the poor and disenfranchised in the community
Awareness of groups who don’t see the Church as a friend;
Liturgical Ceremonies which strengthen our culture through inclusion of First Nations people. 
Our differences are created by God – We need relationships with each other, at Mass, in discussion groups.

Primary School

The shared wisdom of the group concluded that as many young people are deeply committed to caring for planet Earth, the use of the Laudato Si documents could be an outreach to young people. The group expressed how well organisations such as St Vincent de Paul model the teachings of Jesus. They also felt there’s a large disparity between what Jesus teaches and what our church teaches.

Parishes

Week 4 Mission and Outreach 18th March 2021
Our thoughts
Mission in our local communities/areas essential; create hubs for specific issues such as social issues, environment as in MO 2.1, 2.3

For young people to feel welcome someone has to know them; awareness to move out of our comfort zone; introduce oneself and others to a young person, involve & make welcome, yes let’s be creative as in MO 3.9

To support local mission, pastoral teams need to be encouraged to form in each parish to be outlooking, visionary, have knowledge of needs/ possibilities in their area.
Suggest the development of guidelines and  expectations as a guide for pastoral teams for pastoral outreach, with feedback/ minutes to regional pastoral teams.

That regional pastoral meetings have majority of agenda items related to ideas/support/vision for evangelisation, mission and outreach with young people represented

Parishes

Our charities appear to be more concerned with making money than actually helping people at times.
There are too many different services which aren’t connected, yet should be. Many charities and social services appear to be re-inventing the wheel all the time, or simply unaware that the other exists, or what services they provide. Our social services are not well-integrated with each other, let alone the community.
Many volunteers are treated like slaves “ many of the roles are quite onerous, especially in the current era of administration and accountability, yet, many organisations expect people (many who are now elderly) to supply their time and expertise for nothing.
As far as community outreach and all the different categories; please just accept all people as that “simply human beings who all deserve respect, regardless of how old they are, what sex they are, who they want to be married to, where they live or come from. Continuously trying to focus on special “groups” only ends up marginalising others, and we are all God’s people anyway.

Parishes

In another 10 years our church will look very different if we do not encourage the youth to participate in our present liturgies.  We need to find new initiatives to bring youth involvement into parish life.  Our Catholic Schools are our best chance at reaching young people and harnessing their gifts. We also need to reach out to all in the community wherever they are, be they marginalised through poverty, disability, sexuality, divorce or any other reason.  

Parishes

Week 4  MISSION and OUTREACH  Gospel John 9:1-41   15/3/2021 10.00am
Feeling overwhelmed.
In Fr Tony Stace’s time we were aware of a lot going on with the Aboriginal Catholic community, do we know what is happening now?  Is there only the occasional Mass which is not well attended?
Remember also much suffering of people particularly in the early days of white settlement.  Sufferings of prisoners brought to Australian shores in chains, people who lost their family and their freedom  in coming here, Aboriginal people and attempting settlers killed, dreadful sufferings of nuns, religious people who came to Australia, pioneer women, misguided attempts to advance peoples, all these need to be acknowledged.
Ongoing needs for social justice and to meet the needs for housing and schools.
Overwhelming needs for outreach; trying to solve a plethora of problems.
Example of the early Christian community to reach out to those in need and neglected in their community and appoint people to care for their needs.  Need to care for volunteers noted.  Need for reaching out to people in our parishes.
Need for respect and appreciation of the volunteers.
Comment on MO 1.-  what is evangelisation?  It’s not sermons on a soap box.
How do you spread the good news when the Church has such a bad reputation and people are still hurting?
Liked Bishop’s emphasis on not trying to convince people but simply about sharing with people what my faith gives to me.
MO 3.- something we all recognise
Need Mass as theatre
MO 3.8- good words but how is this put into action?
Relevant not just for “young people” but for all people.
Comment that we are not a friendly diocese “people don’t know everyone who is in church with them.  Would help if we knew each other’s names (resurrect name badges ?)

Parishes

These are overall comments – not restricted to a particular week.
Like some of the concerns expressed in preparation for the Plenary, I worry that Voices will be lost – in the preparation for the Synod Documents, and that very tough time constraints will mean many will not be able to be heard at the Synod. 
Maybe a two day event would have been better, to allow time for all !! 
I also worry about the very legalistic Tone. We run the risk of the people in the pews not being heard.
In some of the ideas put forward there have been suggestions for many organisations at Parish and Diocese level.
However there is no clear listing of existing organisations at either Parish or Diocese level, and just saying things are on the website doesn’t cut the mustard.
Many listings are opaque; some exist in name only; and there seem to be many gaps.
Others don’t give any, or up to date, contact details of the various co coordinators.
So rather than reinvent wheels, a fair dinkum audit should be hastily done to correctly identify what is available and working now.
The people in the pews are approaching the Synod with Good Will, which needs to be reciprocated.

Primary School

The message of those that believe will live forever is very strong.  The early Christians were an underground movement, focusing very strongly on the teaching of Jesus.  This was a time of strength and conviction in the word of God though Jesus.  Over time “man made” Church rules, hierarchy and sometimes lavish ceremonies have come in-between, or even overshadowed, the words of Jesus.  We need to get back to the essence of the Church to spread the word and acts pf Jesus.

Parishes

A massive shift in culture is needed. Most people who do not attend mass anymore cannot identify with the church – it is sexist, out-of-touch with the issues real people face, arrogant and cliquey. Some will not step foot inside a church ever again, especially after the sex abuse issues. It is hard to effectively lead an organisation when you are so different from its constituent members “how does a single, celibate, older (usually), white (usually), male (always) identify with many of the issues the congregation face every day? In return, it’s hard to follow someone you have nothing in common with.
I believe in God and attend mass regularly, but I see priests and their leadership as being very much a human construct representing thinking from an almost ancient era. Excluding women from the priesthood and real leadership decisions has been the biggest downfall of the church and has resulted in many problems. Get leadership groups that are more representative of the whole community “male, female, young, old, black, white, yellow, married, single, straight, gay, whatever“ and you may see a change in people’s identification with the church. Just having men being ordained, and older people running parish councils will see nothing change, and eventually the church will wither on the vine.
Some priests could be humbler in the way they lead the mass – over the top robes, rituals, ring-kissing, pointing out how wrong the church/altar has been presented“ does nothing to make the church feel humble and welcoming. Jesus was humble and God is merciful – Im pretty sure we won’t go to hell if something is not 100% correct.
Parish leadership teams could be more clearly identified and open to regular renewal. Many people in our parish would have no idea who the members are.

Parishes

Leadership and Structure
In general our group agreed with the foundational statements especially with the quotes from pope Francis.
LS 1.1 What is meant by an external review? Who would the report be made to?
We strongly support a governance model that directs attention to the person of Jesus and that is pastoral first and foremost.
LS 2.1 While secular models can be useful, structures and governance must be based on the values taught by Jesus.
LS 3.1 Each person in an organisation has specific strengths to contribute to the whole.  These gifts and training should be given recognition. Training in leadership should be undertaken by all engaged in diocesan employment and in parishes; by the priest with the pastoral council and others in ministry in the parish.  This should be undertaken with each new appointment. Or on a regular annual or biannual basis.
LS 4.2 Strong agreement on this and on LS 4.3 and LS 4.4
Dot point Local Parish Leadership
For parishes to be converted from maintenance to mission we strongly agree. Also agree with the setting of goals and objectives being published and performance measured against these objectives.
Recommendations 7.1.1; 7.1.2; 7.1.3.
There need to be checks and balances.  Members of a parish council or administrator could adopt leadership patterns which rely on business models and neglect the mission and ministry and spiritual development of the parish/diocese.

Others

What are we invited to ?
being more active
Be more corporate
Participate, not be spectators
Problems with the institutional church and people asking “why is this happening to us?”
The mystery of why do bad things happen
Hindsight is very wise
We are invited to be in the present and deal with that
Keep asking ourselves: what would Jesus do in this time? He would be with those hurting.
In the past, we have adopted the posture of subservience – this made for an easy life, it simplified life.   You knew where you were, even if you were not happy with it.
General support for the recommendations;  need women in authority, etc.; page 38 good, need emphasis on collaborative structures.
Some concern with LS 4.2 – external auditing – who would do this; be calling on a source from another diocese?  How would external auditing be appointed? 
Dot point 3, top of p.39 – not override – Wow!  can think of numerous example where a PP has overridden the people. 
Concern expresses in LS 7.1.2 echoed.  Questions re level of secular employment standards.
Avoid overemphasis on the sexual abuse problems – need to move forward while being vigilant.
Some challenges in “church speak” current corporate usages and “shorthand references” e.g., “principles of subsidiarity”, see LS 6.2;  p.40 dot point 3, “inverted pyramid”.
Emphasise dot points p.40 – need to modernise teaching – acknowledge modern scientific changes and changes in understanding.
LS 9.1 – importance of words on meditation, emphasising the apophatic way, helping with discernment.
Strongly support concentration on trying to develop a more dialogical culture.  This is countercultural, the external culture is becoming more autocratic and hierarchical.
Sources of authority based on tradition – scripture not the basis of all we do; it’s part of it; our tradition is to pass on to each other – conversation / dialogue.  Emphasis on continuing the dialogue.
Potentially wide ranging recommendations.  Need to make sure that these recommendations are not just bureaucratic fob-offs.
Conscious encouragement of women is important in this process and the documents.
Church is a mystery, an enigma.

Others

Being brave enough to have the tough conversations about sexuality, intimacy, friendships, gay marriage, abortion, divorce etc. Getting real with what society brings. Acknowledging that this is all part of being human and the challenges that we face when situations are different or hushed because they are topics that are too difficult or embarrassing to talk about.
The promotion of the catechesis/catechist consciousness for our local Church is also really about applying the guiding principle of subsidiarity; ie of the delegation of responsibilities for the promotion of the life and ministry of all the Church. I do recommend the Directory for Catechesis as being a template for the promotion of the recognition and exercise of the charisms and ministries which the Directory refers to. It presents these in a way which assumes a co-responsible relationship between catechists and with the appointed Pastors ( it is not an either/or approach). Some quotes ” it is necessary that the Diocese carry out action that is organic, in such a way that different charisms, ministries, services, structures and organisations be connected to the same project of evangelization “DC# 422
“the kerygmatic and missionary accentuation of catechesis at the present time fosters pastoral conversion, and therefore the missionary transformation of the /church # 420
“Catechists are primarily persons who have experienced the love of God and who for this reason alone place themselves at the service of the proclamation of the Kingdom DC # 122
I hope and pray that the potential the vocations of catechists is able to be recognized and owned in our synod deliberations.

Others

Elders of the Church and the clergy need to have a visible presence at Schools and Universities so they can teach our younger people how to be active in their faith at ground level and how to minister in a way that reflects the churches values and beliefs.
The church will rely on our young people to continue. Let us all be willing to tell our story, teach and pass on the practices of our great faith so our young people can see our Church grow and move into the 21st Century. A church where all people are welcomed.
Providing parishioners the opportunity to get involved in areas that they are gifted. From giving the homily to coordinating the morning tea after Mass. Ask what our parishioners what they would like their parish to look like to the rest of the community and then work together to create this.
Bulletins – some share what is happening in the Diocese some keep it at local level.
Every quarter have the Diocesan Champion of the Parish share what is happening in the Diocese in a fun, informative and engaging way. This keeps people connected and in the know and does not rely on the parish priest to deliver this news.
Every parish should have a Natural Disaster CRISIS Action Team for when natural disasters occur parishioners have options to assist. Whether it is to donate money, items, drive trucks, cut down trees etc. Give where they can.
We need to be advised on “best practice” on how to respond appropriately regarding harsh comments made about the Royal Commission. This is such a difficult conversation to have and many people have no idea what to say to avoid confrontation, to acknowledge the damaging past but to look forward to a brighter future (but not sound like we are dismissing our down playing a very ugly part of our Churches history). Advice here would be appreciated by many.

Others

It is important to highlight the need for inclusivity regarding “leadership” with the Diocese and the Church. This includes women having high profiles in leadership in the Church. Young people need to see strong and passionate leaders who are brave enough to stand up for what they believe in. This inspires our young people to do that same. Stand up for what is good and right in the world and have a standard that will not be easily destroyed by the whims of society.
A diocesan “Emerging Leadership program” would be a wonderful asset for all people who are called to lead and are passionate and highly skilled in a particular area of Leadership. Please note Daniel Lee (2020 PPP) has developed a wonderful concept -1 Mind + Heart (a formation and leadership training day), that could support this process.
Training people in parishes who are gifted in Pastoral Care Work to provide Pastoral Care to those in our aged care facilities. There is great need in this area and more training should be made available so as a Church we can be on mission and outreach to the dying and their families.
Parish and Diocesan Leadership should be based on a team model rather than hierarchical. Systems and structures are necessary, however if pastoral work, mission and outreach are the fore runners of our Church than hierarchical systems may not be as effective in delivering this outcome.
Jesus had a strong team of 12 who encouraged others to lead in their local communities. Having Champions in each parish community to share the great things that are happening in our Diocese would prove to encourage others to actively participate in mission and outreach activities and help make our church a center where people in our communities feel safe and know that they can come to us for help.

Others

For successful churches to run there needs to have a strong structure and model of leadership in place. Jesus demonstrated how we should lead, and his method should be modelled in all areas of the Church. Jesus had a team with him, and all had a role. We need to do the same in our Diocese and at a local parish level.
One person cannot be highly skilled and knowledgeable in all areas. The Priest is one man who may have many gifts but needs assistance in other areas.
The “leadership team” model is one where many people and their gifts and talents can be utilised to serve the parish and the local community. It is necessary that these gifts are not overlooked and in fact noticed and encouraged to be used for the betterment of the parish and the wider parish community.
The Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle are leaders in the Ecumenical and Interfaith space and this needs to be celebrated and shared with the people of the Diocese. Uniting all people in what brings us together rather than what separates is something that should be encouraged in this space so we can build the kingdom of God together as unified Church.
Priests need to get back into the community and have a familiar and positive presence, so all people feel comfortable and safe once more in the presence of a priest.  We acknowledge that Catholic Priests would have many challenges and may even have some fear around being in public, attending community events, even having a friendship group. This fear being a conscious or unconscious response to the Royal Commission and past cases of child abuse. However, the less communities see our sisters and brothers of the clergy the less familiar they will seem, and the divide and unhealthy stereotypes widen. This division does more harm than good for our church and what we stand for.

Parishes

LEADERSHIP & STRUCTURE – small group
We liked the quote by Pope Francis Sept 2019 (bottom of page 39) referring to the shepherd who checks the front, middle and rear of the flock to ensure he’s taking ALL of the sheep with him. Our leaders must attempt to do likewise. Aligned with this is the principle of subsidiarity – that decisions should be made by the body closest to those that the decision affects. Decisions affecting a Parish should be made by those parishioners. In making decisions it is important to replace clericalism with the involvement of all the baptized.
We spoke of the Church acting more like a pastoral fellowship rather than a business corporation. Money should never be the primary motive for decisions.
A major focus of our efforts should be to convert parishes from a maintenance to a mission model.
The involvement of lay people in the Church took up much of our discussion. Some of the resistance to this often comes from the laity themselves. The skills and education of lay people needs to be recognized by the Church and a just remuneration should be afforded to lay ministers.
The concept of Lay led Parishes should be further explored and supported.
The Church, with an open mind, should investigate a healthy view of sexuality, intimacy, relationships and conscience.
Again, with an open mind and a respect for all people, the Church should engage in dialogue concerning modern age dilemmas including contraception, abortion, euthanasia, ordination of women and same sex marriage.

Parishes

Lenten Program Wisdom Summary Faith Matters Group – Inner City Newcastle
Week 5 LEADERSHIP and STRUCTURE:  Gospel John 9:1-41.  
What resonated  –
Bishop Bill’s comments on the gospel inspiring
Images of confused faith
Disciples misunderstanding what Jesus is telling them
Martha & Mary – believing in Jesus but at same time not really believing
People grieving but with Christ at the centre it’s different.
Centrality of Jesus
Gathering the wisdom of the group:
Relevant gospel for the Plenary Council – people feeling lost; grief & disbelief at abuse & cover-up; reaching out to put Christ in the centre.
Support ALL the recommendations presented in Leadership and Structurs
Challenge highlighted – that we are not dictated to but are led to discern together
p.37 dot point 1: hard on those who do the right thing ?
p.39 dot point 6 (col 1): good but would be a challenge, precedents e.g. Toronto
p.40 dot point 3: A radical change ? a new order, inverted pyramid – what will it look like?
Hope, especially hope because of the Synod – listening, discerning, personal and communal prayer.
Communication problems:  diocese with parish; parish with people; parishes with schools; training in servant leadership
New models based firmly on the Gospel – leading by service, forgiveness, presence.
Synodal church – involvement of everyone
Could be some concerns with emphasis of bringing the church into the 21C – heading towards schism?
Reinventing the wheel? Need for Christ-centred perspective. Recommendation LS 8.2 relevant here
The Synod process is a start – not the end.
 A healthy organization has critics within.
Continuing relevance of contemplative dialogue in enabling all victims of injustice (sexually abused, forced adoptions etc to continue to be heard for as long as they deem necessary) 
Most of us are followers, but this is calling us to be leaders.
Our faith journey is life long – that we keep on trying.

Primary School

The shared wisdom of the group concluded that our church structure does need to be that inverted pyramid. We would like Diocesan rooms that are named after bishops or priests that may have been involved in clergy sexual abuse eg. Toohey Room, be renamed. We concluded that we do need and do have the faith of Martha and if Jesus is present with us the story is not ended. 

Parishes

As a church let’s listen to our Pope; whilst not governing on ordination of women, has many acknowledgements of women’s worth & “genius”; we are a poorer church because women are not having a say where it matters. This issue has to be a priority with changes made, at our Synod and the Plenary Council or people will walk away disillusioned from the Church.

Strong feeling about our priests having more freedom; please get out of the office, more time for pastoral care, to know your people, be more in touch with what’s happening in families. Take on board the Pope’s teachings in Amoris Laetitia. A restructure with much of the governance/ management /meetings in parishes turned over to suitable, trained employed & volunteer laity.

We need shared open decision making in local parish/regional meetings with priests not overriding the majority

Discussed somehow, we need to “sell the sense of mission” to baptised Catholics
Maybe as suggested in Getting Back on Mission, the recommendation “A model Catholic Charter of Rights and Responsibilities of Christ’s Faithful” may awaken some sense of what can be achieved, this being a positive approach

 Some of the language used in this section was a bit challenging!

Parishes

Jesus liberates us like He liberated Lazarus from his bandages.
Jesus wasn’t afraid to go back to Jerusalem where people wanted to stone Him. Do we His followers also have this faith and courage?
Mary and Martha declared their faith in Jesus but when Jesus asked for the stone to be rolled away, seemed to have doubts: “Lord, by now he will smell”. Do we also have doubts?
God’s love for us is not based on our practical usefulness. He loves us as we are.
Older generations are often discouraged by their children’s and grandchildren’s lack of faith and church attendance, yet these young families are generally good people.
Priests are traditionally regarded as leadership figures, however, they still rely on their lay communities to advise them on many issues.
How does our faith grow? Its the difficulties we face that lead us again and again to continually renew and deepen our faith. With this comes greater peace.
Mary, Martha and Lazarus may have been an irregular family in their time, since Mary and Martha appear to be unmarried and dependent upon Lazarus working for their material survival. If he were chronically sick or died, would they be tempted to sell themselves to survive. Jesus helped them. How do we help people in irregular situations?
Synod workbook suggestions included ordination of women. If it ever occurred it would be a long way off. Some people are yearning for it. Others feel women in positions of power in the church is problematical due to different male/female leadership styles. Women in our diocese are already well represented in bodies advising the bishop. A few women also had leadership roles in early Church communities.
We need to remain Christ-centred and within universal church law. Radical calls to approve IVF, same-sex marriage, abortion & euthanasia are scary.

Others

OTHER COMMENTS
Since February 2021, I have often lamented about the lack of feedback mechanism afforded by the synodal processes and consequently, I have written a number of unsolicited reports in relation to my experience as a synod participant (delegate-to-be).
In my first report I wrote:

In the context of our 21st century, with the Australian Church seeking to be ‘inclusive, participatory and synodal’ some of us may question whether the concept of ‘building a kingdom’ (instead of seeking first) will help us as a diocesan community to respond to the challenges we face at this time in our history. ‘Building’ implies solid foundations.

The appalling revelations of widespread sexual abuse of children by clerics and in Church organisations and the mishandling of complaints of abuse have shaken and fractured the church’s historical and theological foundations as well destroyed the social trust which was carefully accumulated over 200 years by the catholic community in Australia.

Christianity has to be taken realistically in terms of what it has become rather than what was ideally meant by Jesus.

“We need to acknowledge what the church has failed to achieve in order to move forward” (from an anonymous participant in the synod celebration first session)

The diocesan synod has not been initiated to “acknowledge what the church (our diocese) has failed to achieve” and particularly by critically examining the history of previous synods and assemblies and their recommendations.
The present synod appears to be a speedy exercise which was set up in parallel with the plenary council with consequences on its agenda and schedule. This is unfortunate and deeply felt by those who were hoping to fully participate in the synodal process in order to “move forward” and rebuild the diocesan foundations before it launches its renewed mission to be an ‘inclusive, participatory and synodal’ Catholic Church in the Maitland-Newcastle region.

Other

RESPONSE TO SECOND QUESTION
It is my understanding that from the submissions, the Synod Working Party will amend the Foundation Papers which will then become the Synod Papers for Session Two of Synod. These will be sent to all delegates/synod members by 23 April.
It is also my understanding that “the bishop has the duty to exclude from the synodal discussions theses and positions discordant with the perennial doctrine of the Church or the magisterium” and that he shall proceed to determine those questions on which the synodal debate will concentrate (duly advised by the Synod Working Party).

Time and procedural constraints leave very little room to change the current substance of the foundations papers and discourage the introduction of new propositions or recommendations which could have expressed the joys and hopes, griefs and anxieties of so many members of the Church.

Moreover, looking (qualitatively and quantitatively) at the submissions of the contemplative dialogue (56 now posted on the website over 4 sessions, 32 come from parish groups and 15 from “others” and no submission written by members of the clergy or religious orders), which were to be the source of new propositions or recommendations, one cannot help thinking that the participation (individually and collectively) was poor and that either the diocesan community failed to respond to the Five Foundation Papers developed by the synod working party, or the contemplative dialogue phase failed to capture the hopes and griefs of the faithful.

It seems therefore that this question is rhetorical and that what needs to be modified, added or deleted might might have been expressed before and outside the official synod contemplative dialogue and communication mechanism and thus might be considered as “discordant” with the proposed spiritual framework firmly established and based on pastoral plans going back to 1992/93 Diocesan Synod.

As Terry Fewtrell (from the Concerned Catholics of Canberra Goulburn) wrote on the 30th of July 2020 after reviewing the PC2020 discernment papers:

It was obvious from the report on the submissions that the catholic community had invested significantly in the PC process. Their submissions brought with them earnest, but fragile, hope. It would be perverse and pastorally destructive for the bishops to formulate an agenda that, like the Discernment papers themselves, fails to honestly deal with the issues that the People of God in Australia yearn to have addressed seriously and conscientiously. 
The lack of confidence and trust in the bishops that was manifest in the submissions related as much to the processes of the Plenary Council as to their performance over recent times. The PC was an opportunity to staunch that wound. It now rests with the bishops to demonstrate that they are bona fides and ensure that the next steps on the journey truly reflect the synodality that Pope Francis advocates. At this stage, only a relevant and realistic agenda will keep that hope alive.

This again could be applied to our synod proceedings.

Other

RESPONSE TO FIRST QUESTION
The foundations papers are the work of the Synod Working Party, I have indicated in writing my concerns about the composition of the Synod Working Party which in my opinion is lacking a genuine attempt to listen and include the voice of the Spirit which may be found “outside” the diocesan “structure” and personnel.
Therefore, whilst the foundations papers are considered as initial working documents, they do not reflect the concerns, observations and needs of the whole diocesan community.
These have been reported widely (2, 418 respondents and 426 submissions) in the Plenary Council Diocesan report “Final Report for Phase I: Listening and Dialogue – A Report to the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle” as follows:
A wide range of themes were discussed in the submissions from groups and individuals in your dioceses. The most prominent ones are listed below. For a detailed analysis of each of these themes please refer to the national report. We have provided references to the report by way of chapter and page numbers for this purpose.
The top four topics discussed by participants from your diocese were:
– Love God, Love Neighbour
– Social Justice and the Environment
– Sacraments
– Leadership and Church Governance 
Within each of these four areas, the most widely discussed themes were as follows: 
Love God, Love Neighbour (Chapter 4) Greater focus on Jesus Christ (p. 30) Greater trust, faith and hope in God (p. 29) Greater focus on the Word of God (p. 31) Care for neighbour (p. 36) Better faith formation (p. 38) Being a witness in society (p. 34) Keeping the faith (p. 33) Remaining faithful to Church teaching (p. 32) Renewed call to holiness (p. 35) 
Social Justice and the Environment (Chapter 9) Greater inclusion of all (p. 108) Fighting for human rights issues (p. 110) Care for the environment (p. 112) 
Sacraments (Chapter 6) Holy Orders – Ending celibacy / allowing priests to marry (p. 66) Holy Orders – Ordination of women (p. 69) Greater emphasis on prayer and sacraments (p. 64) 
Leadership and Church Governance (Chapter 7) Greater role for women (p. 83) Greater leadership from bishops (p. 87) New model of Church, diocese, parish (p. 93) Greater leadership from priests (p. 88) Greater involvement of the laity (p. 84) New leadership and governance model (p. 91) Ending clericalism (p. 80)  
Other main themes that emerged from the responses from your diocese included:
Outreach to youth (p. 124) Listen to one another more (p. 136) Greater connection with and inclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians (p. 120) More transparency and accountability regarding clergy sexual abuse (p. 102) Listening to the laity (p. 138) Modernise Church teachings (p. 169)
Neither do I believe – after listening to the faithful during Lent as a group member in the contemplative dialogue- that they reflect the direction the Holy Spirit is leading us.
The Plenary Council working papers (Instrumentum Laboris) is more realistic in its discernment:

A significant feature of the consultation process has been the high level of engagement by the People of God. The 17,457 formal submissions represent the contributions of more than 222,000 people. These contributions do, indeed, express the “joys and hopes, griefs and anxieties” of so many members of the Church. They are as individual and unique as the people who found the courage and commitment to put them forward. It can be presumed that these contributions give voice to people’s individual and communal experience of life in the Church. They also give voice to a variety of understandings of the nature of the Church and of hopes for the future of the Church. From all this, a complex picture of light and shadow emerges. Many expressions of gratitude for the ways in which people’s experience of the Church has enriched their lives were submitted. So, too, were expressions of disappointment, disillusionment and anger.
However, as John Warhurst wrote in his “Eureka” article (25 March 2021) I quote: But it does contain critical failures in both style and content. Some of these flow from the fact that, as someone described it to me, it is a distillation of a distillation of a distillation of the original 17, 457 submissions received in the Listening and Dialogue phase. They were first distilled into the final report by the National Centre for Pastoral Research then distilled again into the six theme papers before this latest distillation. Much has been lost in the process. Let us hope it is restored in the final agenda. Such remark by a Plenary Council delegate and co-author of the “Light of the Southern Cross” report can be applied to our synod foundations papers.

Diocesan Councils

INTRODUCTION
A Synod (like Christmas) is a Christian tradition which clearly sits in a ‘western’ consensus reality of agreed-upon patterns and practices, a reality which is dominant in English-speaking Australia. Last year (2020), Christmas took place in a COVID context, and this modified our consensus reality. Why? Because COVID has introduced the essential factor in all social change, the change in beliefs and practices, religious and secular. Our diocesan Synod also takes place in a COVID context and a major social shift in which we are developing a blueprint for a way forward for the post-COVID church. A new consensus reality will replace the previous one.

ROLE OF A DELEGATE   
While delegates represent their community or parish it is not in the sense of a ‘political liaison’ between Synod and constituency. Their role is not to lobby for a geographic or interest group as in a political gathering, but to ensure that the concerns, observations and needs of the whole diocesan community are presented to the Synod, and to report back to the parish, agency or community that discerned their attendance. To assist with this each Synod Member is invited on a personal formation journey to ascertain a better understanding of the diocese and one’s own faith.
ROLE OF FOCUS GROUPS
Focus Groups have been created on behalf of the Diocesan Synod Working Party. Their tasks are to focus on the different aspects of the synod. The work of the Focus Groups is ongoing with some work not ready for tabling at Session Two of Synod but with the hope of presenting this at Session Three of Synod.
PREPARATION PAPERS
The Synod Working Party has coordinated the analysis of responses from the first session of the synod and the preparation of the foundations papers (preparation papers).
LENT CONTEMPLATIVE DIALOGUE
From Lent until Pentecost the people of the diocese were invited, through a process of contemplative dialogue, to discern more fully the framework for considering ‘Building the Kingdom of God Together’ in our diocese. 
The purpose of the diocesan reflections during Lent was to enable all members of the diocesan community to respond to the Five Foundation Papers developed by the synod working party for the Session Two of Synod. 1. Identity and Community 2. Worship and Prayer 3. Formation and Education 4. Mission and Outreach 5. Leadership and Structure.
DELEGATES SUBMISSIONS
Delegates/synod members will consider the feedback they have heard through the contemplative dialogue process, and be asked to respond to the following questions:
For each Foundation Paper: Are you satisfied that this paper reflects the direction you believe the Holy Spirit is leading us?
What, if anything, do you think needs to be modified, added or deleted?

Parishes

Some Reflections from the Lenten Program:
– While we recognise the diversity of faith expression, and that some might feel little need for change, the group strongly believes that Church renewal is much needed if it is to carry out its missionary role in the world today.
– If the Church is to be “missionary and evangelising” then it needs to reach out to those beyond our parish communities – to be outward looking rather than inward focused. There are, for example, many families in schools, both Catholic and State, to whom we could reach out, welcome and invite to join our community. Families who present their children for baptism could also be followed up with further invitation to join our community gatherings.
– The Church must be inclusive and welcome all without exception – as Jesus did. We must reach out to all, whether they be disaffected Catholics, who may feel excluded, members of the LBGTIQ community, our indigenous brothers and sisters, or many others who may feel isolated. No one should be excluded. The Church should be a “field hospital for the many who have been wounded.”
– As bearers of the gospel, the “good news”, we should present to others as people of joy and hope, ready to share our beliefs with others.
– Our liturgies should be meaningful and joyful celebrations. There should be more opportunity for lay participation in the Mass – ways to allow people to share an understanding of their faith, for example responding to the homily, or lay people presenting homilies. Gatherings should be less formal and speak to people’s life situations.
– As the “Church in the Modern World” the Church should speak out on social justice issues which affect the lives of so many, particularly in poorer countries. For example, Pope Francis’ statement “Laudato Si” emphasises the need to care for the environment.
– All stand in need of continued formation and education. While homilies may provide some opportunity for deepening one’s faith, ways of addressing the pressing need for continuing faith formation, of both clergy and lay people, should be investigated.
– Our Church should be participatory, where lay people are encouraged to contribute positively and be part of parish decision-making processes. Lay people need to accept their responsibility to engage fully in the life of the parish.
– Greater recognition should be given to the role of women in the Church, and steps taken to allow them a significant exercise in Church leadership.
Some particular recommendations:
– The third rite of reconciliation should be available to all
– The Church should allow married priests, to enable ready access to the sacraments for all. We believe a majority of Catholics support this recommendation.

Parishes

We have now completed the third week of contemplative dialogues.
As I indicated before it is unfortunate that the feedback mechanism (submission) is not allowing the various groups (we don’t know how many and where they are) to share the ‘results’ of their dialogues.
In our group the distrust toward the institution is salient and could be expressed by this paragraph from an article I read.
As denominational Christianity declines almost across the board, magnetic independent leaders have stepped into the void. “There’s this idea that you can’t trust anybody except these trusted individuals,” said Brad Christerson, a sociologist at evangelical Biola University. “It’s a symptom of our time. People don’t trust institutions, and people think that all mainstream institutions are corrupt: universities, science, government, the media. They’re searching for real sources of truth.”

Parishes

Now,  I acknowledge and accept that our diocese has been on a synodal journey for almost 30 years since the 1992/93 diocesan synod, and that when Bishop Bill became our bishop in 2011, he along with the members of the then Diocesan Pastoral Council have had regional gatherings around the diocese and there are records of what was heard and proposed action plans.
But what has been communicated and where are the fruits?
I refer to the Pastoral Plan 2010-2014 signed by bishop Michael Malone, who wrote this in his forewords: “The Diocese of Maitland was established in 1847. For at least one hundred and twenty of those years people were confident they understood what it meant to be a Catholic and felt their salvation rested in doing what the church told them.  In 1988, the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle embarked upon a journey to formally embrace the Spirit and Teachings of Vatican II and to launch a Diocesan Pastoral Planning process that would irrevocably link pastoral planning in the diocese to the theological principles of Vatican II. This was to take place against the background of the Diocesan Synod of 1992-93.”

The document also tells us: New Wine into Fresh Wineskins (Pentecost 2000) described the diocesan pastoral planning process as an effort to create a “new way” of being church, a concept that needs to be continually addressed and understood. However, 40 years on from Vatican II and almost 20 years on from our Diocesan Synod we are still struggling to foster a style of church that embraces the qualities of the Second Vatican Council.

The Royal Commission Hearing has highlighted the inadequacy of the Church and of our diocese in responding to allegations of abuse. This inadequacy started with the failure to listen to the victims and their parents. Administratively the failures included poor record keeping, ineffective assessments, inefficient inquiries, and a failure to share important information. Pastorally the failures included a completely inept response to and treatment of victims and their families, and safeguarding the reputation of the Church ahead of ensuring the safety and well-being of children. Whilst the Royal Commission was specifically looking at systemic failures which lead to the sexual abuse of children by members of the clergy, its analysis of “administrative failures” is significant and could be extended to the context of our diocesan Pastoral Planning and our ongoing regional struggle “to foster a style of church that embraces the qualities of the Second Vatican Council.”

Since bishop Malone left, our diocese has lacked pastoral or apostolic momentum due to – one must admit- the need to attend to the pressing administrative responsibilities (attending legal, economical and political battles). As Francis Sullivan said in an article unlisted in “Eureka” – “Unless we break the shackles of entitlement and cronyism, become inclusive and more representative in our decision-making we risk losing any claim to renewal and reform…..In a society that regards religion as just another lifestyle choice at best, we need to resist trying to pump air into old tyres that have run their course.”

It concerned me that some promising programs in the diocese have been ‘nipped in the bud’ (like Fr Geoff’s moderator model), other programs may have become stagnant (small faith groups and adult education) and our pastoral practices towards the marginals, women and indigenous Australians became lukewarm.  As I look at our diocese in a post-pandemic experience, I indeed reflect on some of the successes the diocese has had (Lina’s project), but I also see the many failures such as the need to acknowledge the issues of diminishing/ageing priesthood, and the cultural integration of foreign priests, as Antoine de St Exupery, expressed in a state of solitude:  “if you differ from me, my brother, far from injuring me, you enrich me”

I hope that in this brief message, I have conveyed what I believed the Synod Working Party may have missed in reviewing past pastoral plans and signs of our time.
The Synod should be an initiative which moves the Maitland-Newcastle Church from its traditional mission goals to an authentic Australian Church.

Others

WEEK 5 LEADERSHIP AND STRUCTURE
1. Change/Transformation of Culture (What is recommended). LS 1.1 & LS 1.2
COMMENTS FROM PARTICIPANTS IN OUR GROUP
That the Synod direct a fundamental review of leadership and governance with a view to simplifying and providing a more open approach.
2. Servant Leadership (What is recommended). LS 2.1
COMMENTS FROM PARTICIPANTS IN OUR GROUP
Our group affirmed the recommendations contained in the Building the Kingdom of God Together Our Journey.
3. Ordained Leadership (What is recommended).LS 3.1
COMMENTS FROM PARTICIPANTS IN OUR GROUP
This is in line with the recommendations under Servant Leadership.
4. Leadership and Management Structures (What is recommended). LS 4.1, LS 4.2, LS 4.3, LS 4.4
COMMENTS FROM PARTICIPANTS IN OUR GROUP
We regard the prospect of governance being externally audited and reported on a Bi Annual basis as a step too far. We are of the opinion that strong Diocesan leadership should enable the transition without the need for an external audit and Bi Annual review.
We are in agreement that an internal review of Management structures to create simpler and transparent management practises will benefit the Diocese.
5.Diocese/Parish Relationships (What is recommended). LS 5.1, LS 5.2
COMMENTS FROM PARTICIPANTS IN OUR GROUP  
We are unanimous in our belief that a review that produces improved communication/relationships between the Diocese and the parishes will be highly beneficial in allowing greater coordination in spreading the Word of God.                                                                                                                                         
6. Local Parish Leadership (What is recommended). LS 6.1,  LS 6.2
COMMENTS FROM PARTICIPANTS IN OUR GROUP
Good governance is inclusive governance.
7. Sexual Abuse and the Royal Commission (What is recommended). LS 7.1 – 7.1.1 / 7.1.2 / 7.1.3
COMMENTS FROM PARTICIPANTS IN OUR GROUP
Recognition of the damage that has been done to the church is the first and major step towards a reorganisation that will void any future repetition.
The introduction of a structure that better shares management between clergy and laity will benefit all concerned.
8. Bringing the Church into the 21st Century (What is recommended). LS 8.1, LS 8.2
COMMENTS FROM PARTICIPANTS IN OUR GROUP
Acknowledgement of changes in society may necessitate a broadening in acceptance of views, however no lessening of the joyous message that Christ conveyed 2,000 years ago.
9. Plenary Council Process (What is recommended). LS 9.1
COMMENTS FROM PARTICIPANTS IN OUR GROUP
It is imperative that the Plenary Council reflect clearly those recommendations that are arrived at during the Synod process.

Parishes

Leadership & Structure – This Foundation had the most areas of concern and the most recommendations. It was felt that none of the recommendations in the previous four Foundations could be achieved without ensuring that there is proper Leadership & Structure in our Diocese and our Parishes. To achieve success in any organisation there needs to be a clear set of goals and objectives, followed by detailed action plans which are executed effectively and efficiently utilising the available resources. Roles and responsibilities should be clearly communicated, and each team member should know exactly what is expected to get the job done in the timeframe required. Finally, there needs to be accountability for the achievement, or otherwise, by the team. Feedback and communication during the planning and execution processes are critical. These are some of the basic principles of any successful organisation. The Diocese is no different from any other large organisation. For the Diocese to be successful it must implement modern organisational structures and practices. It is helpful to collect and share Best Practices across Diocese. The sharing of Best Practices can help smaller Parishes. There were concerns expressed during our group discussions about whether individual Parishes can implement the recommendations flowing from the Synod. Will Parishes be involved in the planning processes so that they can have effective buy-in to the action plans? Do Parish Priests have enough time to execute detailed action plans? Do they have sufficient resources, both dollars and talent? Is there a system in place for Parishioners to give feedback to the Bishop on the performance of their Parish Priest? Finally, I suggest that the position of Communications Officer be established in every Parish to make sure that Parishioners are aware of what is happening in their Parish and how they can get involved if they wish. This Comms role will also take a lot of weight off the Parish Priest and provide him with critical support on getting his message out to the Parish. 

Parishes

The emerging Church after Pentecost, consisted of small groups spreading God’s word, which was simple., Share everything with the community, look after the widow & the poor. Leader’s were needed.
Today’s church is a business, & we feel that with all it’s efforts, sometimes loses it’s way.
Many people feel incompetent or unconfident to become leaders. It’s even difficult to attract readers at Mass
The walking team in our parish, is a great example of being a presence in our community. Practical & down to earth,.
Structures need to change in order to focus on the word of Jesus . 

Agencies

It is important to have leaders who have faith. We should not lose our Catholic identity due to the business nature of things
We need to empower our congregations to help use their God given gifts and talents to build the kingdom. Jesus started with twelve. 

The Royal Commission left a stain on our white piece of paper. We have cleared the dark black ink but the grey still remains. Young people are not equipped to have to defend the church or discuss issues of abuse that happened before they were born. The negative stigma around being Catholic is enough for young people to reject their faith. What can we do to support young people in this crisis? How can we give them the tools to navigate this fear of persecution?

There needs to be proper and extensive research done prior to making changes of an emotional nature. 

Parishes

Week 5 Largs 25.3.21
Name the shared wisdom of the group
Recommendations:
– LS2.1 The group strongly agrees with this recommendation. The language used in the recommendation “affirm a commitment” – what does this mean, what is the action that this entails?
– LS4.2 The language be amended to include stronger action of accountability and measurable outcomes.
– LS6.2 be amended to read; That local decision-making be allowed based on the principles of subsidiarity and discernment and consensus-based decision making and that those local decisions be honoured.
– LS7.1.2 The recommendation does not reflect the call for transparency of actions that will lead to structural change that ensures that historical abuse will not happen again.
– LS9.1 The recommendation is confusing in its duality. The second part of the recommendation referring to the Kataphatic and Apophatic faith was not understood in this context.

Parishes

Group thought there was a gulf between the simple language of what we heard and the “churchiness” and wordiness of what we recommend. There was a lot to digest but all agreed that most of the recommendations firmly founded on the person of Jesus Christ rather than the structures of power –  if followed through – could go a long way to address the imbalance and provide greater scope for laity and in particular women to play a more significant role in the leadership and management at diocesan and parish level. Consultation rather than being told and being trusted as educated people rather than as children who need to be led is important as well as open and transparent decision making. Agree with  7.1.1, 7.1.2 and 7.1.3. Hoping and praying.

Parishes

Leadership and Structure
Some points raised in our group discussion in Murrurundi on Leadership and Structure:
– It would be beneficial to receive a weekly update from priest on weddings, funerals, baptisms he has done. This is not about the priest be accountable but about building a sense of what is happening in the Parish, building a sense of community spirit.
– Utilising the wisdom/stories/role models of older men eg grandfather days – this may help  contribute to preventing sexual abuse.
– We need a lay centred church
– Modernise church teachings eg on contraception.
– Don’t condemn people for their decisions regarding how they live their life.
– Support overseas priests.
– Agree with sentiment to ‘open heart and mind to new possibilities and ways of thinking in undertaking God’s work”
– Also agree with the sentiment ‘for the clergy to trust lay people, recognise the education of lay people today and their call to do more than administrative tasks.’
– Good resources required to be available for lay people – shared leadership, moving from  “maintenance” to “mission”.
– Greater involvement of women in leadership, liturgy etc.

The following is the shared wisdom that emerged from our group discussion in Murrurundi regarding Leadership and Structure:
1. That the Catholic Church in the Diocese be a lay centred church, with greater involvement of the laity in leadership and liturgy.
2. Parishes need to be communities that:
   – foster people using their individual gifts,
   – that have good resources available for lay people,
   – that seek to learn what people like about their Church.
3. That the Synod affirm a commitment to leadership and governance reform.
4. That the Diocese conduct decentralised programs, accessible to those in rural/remote areas,  around the topic of “relationships”, for example in parenting but also in relationships generally.
5. That a planned program to support overseas priests be implemented. (This could include the Acculturation Winter program conducted by the Sisters of St Joseph)
6. That all recommendations coming out of the Synod have a time-line associated with their implementation.

Parishes

Our group felt a little powerless in the face of our current Church structures. We are very appreciative of the effort by the Bishop and Diocese to engage in the Synod process. We realised our voices are important, and that we should offer them. The early church listened to all members. Can we flip the power pyramid?

Parishes

Question 1: What resonated with us?
– Reading the Gospel for this week (John 11:1-45), very appropriate as the doubts and lack of faith faced by Martha and Mary is what we as a Church are facing today. The Church is sick. A lot of people are losing or have no faith in God and Jesus.
– Foundational statements: listen to everyone, lead, be led by the Holy Spirit.

Question 2: What challenged us?
– There are good things that the diocese have achieved. Unfortunately, it is overlooked by the sins of the past and negative events.
– How do we recognise the best leaders?
– How do we get all the baptised involved?
– A lot of people want to distance themselves from the wrongs of the past.
– Very anti-clerical tone here.
– #7.1.1 – some of this damage is irreparable. It has decimated some of our people. It will take generations upons generations for this issue to be fixed. The training in the past has set up some priests to fail – leading to clerical sexual abuse.
– #7.8 arrow under concerns: Fr. did this at one parish, talked about it, preached about it but unfortunately some lay people didn’t want to hear about it. If they don’t want to hear about it, they are part of the problem.
– #LS8.1 – some of what is stated in this topic are based on modern culture and ignorance of Church teachings. Straying into medical territory rather than moral territory. We must be careful here not to compromise Church teachings and morality.
– #9.4 arrow under concerns – opens up license to do what one wants to – could be detrimental. Need to be careful.

Question 3. What’s the personal and communal invitation to us? 
– All these concerns and recommendations are generalisations. We mustn’t view them as being evident in every parish, every leader, every priest.
– We need to have faith and trust in Jesus that He will resurrect the Church which is sick and dying. Just as Jesus resurrects Lazarus from the dead. There is hope! During times of hardship, WE NEED TO HAVE FAITH.
– Need to remember, we ‘do not lose our faith, it’s only pushed to the side’. And so there is hope in Jesus resurrecting it.
– Live by the message in the Foundational statements: listen to everyone, lead, be led by the Holy Spirit.
– Perhaps, in leadership and management structures, we start by getting all those who are already baptised involved in and then go outwards and invite others.
– Need to acknowledge the times as well.
– Ideas should be formed on the ground level and move upwards.
– Need to acknowledge every priest is human and they too are going through their spiritual journey. It’s a little premature to say a priest is not spiritual.
– Need to acknowledge it’s not priests alone, even lay persons have abused power within the Church. Not every priest doesn’t consult, not every priest abuses power (E.g. Small group for Safeguarding – Fr is trying to be inclusive of everyone, but there’s not a huge takeup.)
– Must acknowledge it is also painful to hear for faithful who haven’t been directly affected – the clerical sexual abuse.
– We MUST include priests and not ostracise them.

Parishes

LEADERSHIP AND STRUCTURE
In our Parish we ARE dominated and dictated to. We ARE NOT closely united with our leader in discernment, decision making and practice. We welcome Recommendations LS1.1 and LS2.1 and, are encouraged by recommendations of leadership training (LS3.1). We are inspired by Recommendations LS4.1, LS4.2 and LS4.4 calling for the review and reform of leadership and governance structures. We were disappointed with Recommendations LS6.1 and LS6.2 which do not fully address the strong concerns which apply very much to our local Parish where we feel isolated because much of the communication from the Diocese and wider community is not passed on either from the pulpit or in the Parish Bulletin. Cultural differences are causing a lack of trust and understanding of our needs and some members of the group have been  restricted in using their gifts. Are priests from overseas the best solution where their social and ecclesial experience can be vastly different to ours? In one Mass center, we were chastised by the priest for beginning Plenary Council dialogue sessions and were disallowed from advertising them in the Church bulletin. We were disallowed from using the Plenary Council Prayer or Intercessory Prayers in Mass. One group member who attended  training for the Plenary Council, was chastised by the Parish Secretary about advertising the sessions in her Mass center and told – Father IS the Parish priest!
Communication from the Presbytery about the 2021 Synod’s Lenten Program, was almost nonexistent. Our Delegate offered to facilitate the Program, in the absence of any Parish encouragement. Furthermore, The Bishop’s Reflection Day at ……… has not been advertised to date in our Parish bulletin either so very few Parishioners are aware that it is happening. The style of leadership currently in our Parish appears to be mainly administrative, non pastoral and pre Vatican 11.

Other

4. Leadership and Management Structures
Relationship between school and parish-
Recommendation: priest presence in schools, visit schools frequently, attend events and special days.
5. Diocese/Parish Relationship
Parishes are very separated. We don’t know what is going on in the diocese and vice versa.
Recommendation: a database where information from each church is placed. e.g. updates mass times, upcoming events, groups present within the church.
E.g. if there was a list of musicians from each parish- they might be invited to celebrate mass in at the Cathedral for special occasions.
If you don’t know the right people or hear it through word of mouth you might miss out.
Recommendation: Online discussion platform such as ‘Yama’- parishes can connect and find out what is happening in other parishes.
6. Local Parish Leadership
Priests
Define the role of the priest- Some feel lost and have too many tasks.
Recommendation: Define role, delegate jobs.

Priests in schools- To have an active presence
Recommendation: Be present in the school. Exposure. If students see priests in schools they feel connected. Teachers can ask questions. Involvement in school days- e.g. Harmony Day, priests from overseas can share their culture.

Support overseas priests- Understand cultural differences from both sides.
Recommendation- community days and community bonding experiences.

Parish council
Transparency- At the moment the council is hidden, you wouldn’t know who is on the council unless you actively searched.
Recommendation: Council members make announcements, have information nights about what is going on in the parish.

Council structure – Need for diversity and representation
Need for a member from each ministry, female, male, young, adult, parent. etc.
Recommendation: an election and a diverse criteria.

7. Sexual abuse and the Royal Commission
Important for priests to form relationships again. To feel welcomed in schools.
Recommendation: active presence in schools.

Active Clergy

Women Leaders- Lydia and Aquila in Session Five
A reference to Acts 16:13 ff. Lydia “listened to Paul. The greek word for listen is ‘echoen’. It is related to the word to inform or instruct ‘katecho’ from which have the word catechist.  Paul catechised Lydia. It says in Acts “The Lord opened her heart to respond to what Paul was saying ‘We see the word ‘echo’ in both words. Pope Francis said “the heart of the catechist receives the kerygma ( good news) and in turn offers it as a gift to others… a gift that generates mission.. the catechist is right there in the exchange of gifts!’ Lydia is a Catechist-Leader. The New catholic Church Directory for Catechesis (2020) says the Catechist is “a witness of Faith and keeper of the memory of God” (DC#123); “a locus of communion and co-responsibility” (DC #116) with the Pastor who is to accompany the Catechist and discern specific vocations. The Lydia story itself holds up for us a vision for both ongoing formation and mission. We need to have the Catechist’s vocations as key component in our Synodal search to serve the Kingdom, and to walk, following Christ together.

Secondary School

a) Taree Parish and St Clare’s seem to be the furthest outpost of our diocese and we don’t seem to be given any special concession for this fact. We seem to miss out on a fair bit…..
b) Bishop has not been able to personally attend Confirmation for quite a number of years now
c) Taree seems to struggle to attract and keep assistant parish priests. This needs to be a priority since one priest cannot possibly manage so many mass centers adequately.

Parishes

There is a willingness of people to listen, share and grow the gifts and talents of individuals, however we need a ‘softer’ hierarchy. Too long we have have a male dominated hierarcy, we need the skills and knowledge of women to participate in these higher decision making processes to bring a more balanced approach and outcome.

Again, strong endorsement for our Parish Priest and his willingness to provide guidance and leadership in adult faith formation and growth.

Statement (pg. 37)  ‘need for institutional change in governance – new model of Church, diocese, parish’.  How will this new model be developed and what will it look like “concerns that there will be a process led by senior leaders that will either not have any outcome or will not be relevant to the wider Diocesan communities.

Acknowledgement that greater communication at Diocesan and Parish level is needed

Throughout the document ‘performance measures’ are mentioned frequently – those managing this process must ensure that the processes of assessment, evaluation and reporting do not overwhelm the practice of what we are trying to achieve, there must be achievable outcomes – it must not become lipservice.

Parishes

We are 4 lay-women who are mature in spiritual and communal outlook;  have a reasonable grasp of the history and doctrine of the Catholic Church, and an awareness of where our Church ‘is at’ in Australia.
Collectively we express our frustration and impatience at the obvious exclusion of women – who remain largely unacknowledged by the Church for their depth of spirituality, compassion, community building skills and leadership ability.

Such gifts could be offered by women to build up the body of believers, were they properly and rightly allowed to do so.  That we use the term ‘allowed’ speaks volumes of the weariness felt by many women towards a continued and at times, inept, dominance by a male hierarchy, when it need not be so.  Our birthright as women living in a democracy, and as Christians, is to bear equal responsibility and recognition in building the Kingdom of God.

While we acknowledge the good the Church does in our Diocese, there is much territory left unwatered, underfed, and in the case of women – undervalued.
Our compiled comments on Structure and Leadership below:

Current leadership model in our Church is NOT working.  We need women in all levels of leadership and authority within the Church. IT IS A MISSING VOICE.
Lay section of the Church needs to be encouraged and involved in leadership – not to compete with clergy, but as inclusion of spirit-endowed gifts to the Body of Christ.
The Holy Spirit will speak when everyone is open, trusting, and faith-filled.
Trust in the Church and religious leaders has been eroded, and will not be restored by changing a few procedures

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to some of these most vital issues in our Church today.

Parishes

The group resonated with Martha and Mary’s faith and trust in Jesus in the gospel reading. 
We can feel overwhelmed by the difficulties we face as a church but still trust in Jesus.  We need to be prayerful communities;  people who are committed to Jesus and his mission, who really pray, discern and trust in the Holy Spirit
“Unbind him” even if we seem to be “dead” we can be unbound, we can unbind others.  In what ways are we ourselves bound?
The sentence “As Christ’s community we are hierarchical in a hierarchy of service” in Our Story was a problem for some.  Yes, we are hierarchical but do we have to be so hierarchical? 
We do need leadership and structures, but servant leadership, not autocratic “hierarchical” control, directives passed down from above, without adequate consultation or even adequate explanation of why the directives are necessary.  How can that be implemented – at all levels in the diocese? 
Acts 15:  The early church gathered to discuss a big issue – should Gentiles be accepted into the community – they debated, they listened,  they discerned what the Spirit was saying to them, the whole assembly decided unanimously “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us.”
Lay people as well as clergy in leadership roles need to be imbued with this spirit of trusting the Holy Spirit to work through the community.
We need to rethink the way we are:  too dependent on directions from above?? The principle of subsidiarity seems to be rarely considered. 

Other

Good Morning
Thanks for the Book ( Building the Kingdom of God Together-Our Journey)
Our Group reflected on the 5 Foundations or Themes during the Lenten Season. It was Inspiring. The talks of the Bishop based on the Scripture Readings were very helpful for the group members and other audio visual materials based on the theme were also good.
Appreciate the Team for coordinating it.

One of the Concerns and cause of worry for some of  the members :
8. Bringing the Church into the 21st Century (on page 40 from the book)
– To modernise Church Teachings- allowing Contraception and in vitro fertilisation(IVF) and  the following………………………………
These points were a concern and felt going beyond the Church Teachings.
The Teachings of the Church must be of utmost importance in our Diocesan Synod and Our preparation should lead towards it.
Thanks

Parishes

The danger here is of lay person clericalism, where lay people want to take over the role of the clergy, and want to run everything and have committees and bureaucracy and cease doing stuff that lay people are best doing (i.e. doing normal stuff that normal people do, and not doing stuff which clerics normally do). 
Clerics can certainly have better feedback and input, and perhaps a degree of ‘auditing’, from holy lay persons, but please do NOT burden us with unformed, or poorly formed, laity who want to take over and run things according to their interpretation of what society wants us to be (which is perhaps always the opposite of what God wants us to be).
In pastoral terms we certainly have to listen to each person and his/her views and concerns, but we cannot translate that into requiring us to base decisions on the pooling of ignorance.

Leadership has to firstly begin with and be founded in prayer … solid prayer.  Leadership can perhaps can still benefit from being open to feed-back and ideas from laity who are prayerful and well formed, accepting that true holiness  and wisdom can be found in the most humble and lowly, and that not all lay persons (or religious) with many theology degrees are necessarily as near as holy and wise as some of the very prayerful, humble and lowly of our communities.

Parishes

Relationship of Diocese and Parishes
The Diocese should take a more active role in the education of parish council members and should provide some direction to priests as to the ideal composition of councils.  For example, it can sometimes occur that councils are demographically limited, in age/sex/cultural background and in these days of multiple Mass centres within single parishes, may all be from the one Mass centre, meaning that parishioners in other Mass centres have decisions made which affect them, which they have absolutely no input into.

Parishes can perceive the role of the Diocese as being overly controlling, particularly with regards to the management of parish assets and other administrative decisions.  Layers of administration are often responsible for considerably slowing the progress of projects. When decisions need to be made, parishes should not be placed in the position of having to second guess their preferred options because of their perception of what the Diocese will or will not approve.

Connection between parishes –
There is very little ability for leaders in various roles to make contact with people filling similar roles in other parishes, in order to share best practice and perhaps to organise combined events.  The Diocese should provide a networking platform that would enable people to be able to find each other (for example Microsoft Teams/Yammer).  The platform should enable individuals to create groups to which other individuals can subscribe and hence form a community of interest.

Parishes

Role of parish councils and finance committees
The role of parish pastoral councils and finance committees should be strengthened so that, unless there is a compelling reason not to, parish priests should generally accept the strong considered advice of either body on business management of financial matters.   Pastoral councils and finance committees may struggle to explain the pros and cons of various  courses of action to Priests who may only have a scant understanding of these matters – particularly when the priest is from a different cultural background and does not understand the Australian legal system and financial practices.  In these cases, the optimal course of action maybe be compromised by the inability of the priest to fully understand the pros and cons of various options.  This may result in conservative  or risk averse approaches being adopted when the opposite is needed.

There should be recognition that councils these days are generally populated by individuals with professional qualifications and experience who are able to make sound decisions, without needing to refer to the parish priest on every occasion.   Further, parishioners who have contributed to the purchase of assets and expect to be a member of a particular parish for many years, may have a more strategic view of these kinds of decisions than the parish priest, who may be present in the parish for a few years only.  Conversely, priests should not as a rule, make capital purchases without seeking advice.  Failure to seek advice can lead to the expenditure of parish funds on items which are not valued by parishioners.

Councils should be authorised to make decisions on minor/administrative matters without the parish priest needing to be involved in each specific matter, thus enabling priests to focus on pastoral matters. Where lay people or groups of lay people have been entrusted with leadership responsibilities, the decision making role of priests providing pastoral leadership in those parishes needs to be better delineated, so that everyone clearly understands their role.

Other Organisation

The Holy Spirit must lead us in Prayerful discernment to decide as a community and the need to address the problems in a community. – Teaching on discernment

Servant leadership, Humility – what is it?

No testimony without pain

God’s timing – the Church needs to grow in faith as a whole and acknowledge that there are different levels of faith.

The presence of Jesus transforms us and the Church

Clericalism can stunt the Holy Spirit. How can we work together? Does it rely totally on relationships? Or can there be structure to support partnership between the religious and laity?

Need for radical change and the church to be transparent
Obstacles need to be named and addressed- there will always be obstacles

Parishes

#1. Change/Transformation of Culture.
What were the mistakes of the Second Vatican Council and where did the Church get it right? What has been learned?
#2. Servant Leadership.
How do we recognise the best leaders both male and female?
#3. Ordained Leadership.
How do we get all the baptised involved? Communication may be an issue.
#4. Leadership and Management Structures.
If women are to be involved it should be because of their abilities and talents, not to address gender equity. We need the best people for the job.
#8. Bringing the Church into the 21st Century.
The Church must not give in to a left-wing agenda being pushed by left-wing groups or the media. The Church must remain firm on issues such as homosexual marriage, abortion, or euthanasia. Some things don’t change. What is right is right even if people don’t agree. What is wrong is wrong even if people so agree. In bringing about change, the Church needs to ensure we get a “horse and not a camel”! 

Parishes

What Resonates:
– The example of servant leadership inspired by Pope Francis.
– The importance of developing all forms of diocesan communication.
– The importance of consensus decision making as part of our future modus operandi.
What Challenges
– A structure and leadership style that fits the culture we need to envision and pursue – needs to be a more truly Franciscan culture and theology. 
– While it is easy to call for change, it’s harder to know the right direction to pursue and how it’s managed and how well people are broadly involved in the process is crucial.  
– We need to be careful not to change to follow current fads.   
– Such a very different way of being church will meet lots of resistance from those welded to the old ways.  
– We may be naive to think major structural change could be possible.   More likely the changes would be in the area of relationships with each other, between Diocese and parishes and within parishes, between clergy and laity, etc.
– The strong need to separate the pastoral and administrative roles at the parish level.
– Within the process of change it is absolutely important to understand that principles must stand like a rock and in other matters we can go with the flow.   This requires leaders at all levels to understand their doctrine.  
– We need leadership, like Pope Francis, which admits that we don’t always have all the answers and can only act in a Christ-like spirit in those circumstances.
General Response
-There was broad general support for the recommendations, but there was concern about what would come out of the Synod process and how it would be implemented.  The importance of ‘future-casting” a clear vision of the “different” church we hope to be is a most important leadership challenge – the need to see the “Promised Land”

Parishes

General comment that many recommendations sound similar and could be combined.
Specific changes to recommendations:

LS 1.1 delete the word “external”

LS. 1.2add “structural change”

New LS 3.2 “That the Diocese begin a process of replacing most foreign-born priest with Australian ministers (if necessary, with competent non-ordained ministers)”

New LS 3.3 “That the Diocese acknowledge that sacramental leadership; community leadership and parish administration are separate roles with the ordained ministers to be released from the latter two roles if they have limited interest or competence.”

New LS 6.3 “That the Diocese provide a suitably independent and accountable appeals/complaints process for parishioners who believe their parish is not operating in accordance with Diocesan policy, including as developed by this Synod.”

Parishes

1. What we heard from listening to the Scripture Raising of Lazarus/ Acts of the Apostles
Peter adhered to the ecclesial structure organised by Jesus. The selection of Matthias to rebuild the “twelve”.

2. How do we respond to leadership and structure? LS 2.1, LS 3.2

3.  How do we witness to the Kingdom of God in leadership and structure?  LS 4. 4
How can our local Church community help us engage in leadership and structure?  LS 5.1

4.  What are our concerns about leadership and structure?    LS 6.2
5. What we believe/ understand from reflecting on leadership and structure to be “the VOICE OF THE SPIRIT” LS 7.1.3
What we understand from reflecting on leadership and structure to be “THE VOICE OF THE SHEPHERD”  LS 7.1.3
What we believe/ understand from reflecting on leadership and structure to be GOD’S WISDOM-that the Kingdom of God is near   LS 6.1

Parishes

* We attempted to use the contemplative dialogue process for this last session just for something different.
* Father ……. highlighted the quote from Pope Francis; “Do I love my people in order to serve them better?  Am I humble and do I listen to everybody, to diverse opinions in order to choose the best path? If you don’t ask those questions, your governance will not be good.”
* We heard of the possibility of including lay leaders within our church’s leadership hierarchy.
* We asked who would be trained, how would they be trained and by whom.
* We agreed with the principle and practice of Servant Leadership within our church by our appointed leaders, clerical or lay. Love of all. Listen to diverse opinions.
* We heard how much our sick cherish a visitation from our priests.
* We heard that we need to look inwardly rather than blaming others for church woes.  We should ask “What am I prepared to do?”
* All Faith Sharing Groups need to be led by the Holy Spirit.  We heard of bad prior experiences of lay led groups where a domineering voice can derail the group.  Great care needs to be taken to ensure, if we go down the road of lay leadership, a leader that adheres to the principles of servant leader is paramount.
* We heard pros and cons with the lay leadership proposal. There is a need for care in the selection process and quality training essential.
* We heard of the dangers of putting business leaders in charge of certain parish and diocesan administrative roles.  Need to put God 1st rather than the business.
* We need servant leaders, humble leaders.
* We all use different gifts as graced by God.
* We heard the fear some of us have that nothing we do will make any difference. There are no young ones for us to pass the baton.
* There is some trepidation about starting new things and not being able to see it through.  It’s a perceived dilemma that can cause us to hesitate or prevents us from getting involved.

Other Organisations

The following proposed recommendations were discerned at the 21.3.2021 LGBTIQ Catholic Forum contemplative dialogue exercise, to be added to the Leadership and Structure recommendations:
Support for Recommendations LS 8.2 and LS 7.1.3 with hope that these will also address LGBTIQ
issues.
Add as new recommendation:
LS 8.3 Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle dialogue with and learn from the Uniting Church and others who have more experience in the journey of inclusion and outreach.

Primary School

Resonates:  We should be pastoral first, not a business.  We require a structure that supports all people of the church.

Challenges: The use of words in the document and the use of jargon, makes it a challenge for many people to read and fully understand at times.  Sexual abuse and the Royal Commission is an ongoing challenge, how do we move past this?  The call to modernise the church, but how do we do this?

Invitation:  A process to support our overseas priests when they move to Australia.  The cultural shift for them is a challenge not only for them, but their parishioners, are we supporting them as well as we can? 

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