Q: Archbishop J, why a pastoral plan?
The Church today is facing some difficult challenges. The things we have done as Church in the last 50 years, will not be sufficient for the Church to fulfil its mandate over the next 50. We are in very different times.
In 1968 when Archbishop Anthony Pantin became our first local archbishop, he faced dramatic challenges. The whole world was in social upheaval around race, class and gender. Today we also face intense challenges. People no longer see the reason for organised religion. We have not helped with the many scandals we are facing.
I believe the Holy Spirit is working in and through all of us. So for me having every Catholic participate in the life and future direction of the Church is vital to us hearing the plans God has for us.
The most urgent, pressing and troubling challenge we face is the transmission of the faith to the millennial generation. Why urgent? We are failing at this task right now and losing a generation.
Why troubling? Look at your children and grandchildren. We are not presenting them with the faith in a way that is credible. Many after having been raised Catholic and having gone to Catholic schools, walk away from the Church.
So much has changed in their world, and our methods have not kept in step. This generation needs credible witnesses of the faith. They need leaders to be human and inspiring.
The millennial generation
This generation has so much to offer. They are bright, bold and willing to engage in big thinking and projects that have impact. We do not have their energy and creativity. Even when we have them in the Church, we do not give them the space to impact us.
Our aspiration as a diocese speaks to this: We are the people of God, united by Word and Sacrament, building Christ-centred communities that form Catholics to discern their vocation as missionary disciples of Jesus who work for the development of each person, every dimension of the human person, and all peoples with a preferential option for the youth and the poor.
As you read our aspiration statement I invite you to meditate on it. Look at all the parts and then look again at the whole. Our preferential option is for the youth and the poor. Both of these groups deserve particular attention: The youth because our special circumstances demand we reach them; the poor because that is Jesus’ command in Matthew 25.
It is vital that we become conscious of being a People of God. This is our corporate identity. For the “I” to flourish, the “We” must come first. This goes against much of the self-help literature occupying our shelves.
We move from the rugged individualism to becoming a People of God and Christ-centred communities through the unity nurtured by Word and Sacrament.
In these communities every Catholic, young and old, will continually discern their vocation. Discerning and living our vocation will be the essential activities that mark the life of the Catholic in our Archdiocese.
Vocation is linked to generosity towards God, to Christian maturity and ultimately to missionary discipleship. Discerning our vocation connects Christianity with our lived experience so there is no separation between our baptismal call, our being Christian and how we live our lives.
By continually discerning and living our vocation, we grow into the best version of ourselves. We also work tirelessly for the development of each person, every dimension of the person and for all peoples. St Pope Paul VI and Pope Benedict XVI call this commitment to development—to grow in and contribute to the world—the vocation of the Church.
If our aspiration is right, we need to reconsider our commitment to the Catholic parish and Catholic education. Both need to be spaces where the formation of missionary disciples happens consistently.
Realigning parish and school
This formation is integral to the mission of our parishes and schools. The parish and the school are inseparable. They must work together to achieve this great ideal of formation, incorporating our preferential option for the youth and the poor.
Both need to be rethought and restructured to hand on the faith to the next generation. The parish and the school of the 21st century in our Archdiocese will need significant realignment.
The family feeds the parish and the school. We know that many of our families are in great distress. To evangelise the family is key to unlocking the whole pastoral life of the Church. If the Catholic family becomes what it is, the domestic Church, the family will contribute greatly to the transmission of the faith to the millennial generation.
It will also raise consciousness about being Good News for the poor and caring for our common home, which Pope Francis has declared as the eighth corporal work of mercy.
To move from where we are to the point our aspiration indicates requires unleashing the potential and power of people and organisations for the common good. Our pastoral plan outlines the common good we are working towards. Raising leadership capacity is essential to the transformation of the parish, school and family. This is how we will offer transformation to the nation.
I have adopted Ken Blanchard’s definition of leadership: “[The] capacity to influence others by unleashing the potential and power of people and organisations for the greater good.” Here the greater good is the Kingdom of God. That is what we aim at in pastoral planning.
It is essential that we all see the vision; that we all contribute to the overall process of pastoral planning; that we lead from where we are to the place where we collectively discern God is leading us in this 21st century. We are co-responsible for the Church. We all have a contribution to make. We all must lead. We must become the change we want to see.
Key message: Transmitting the faith to the millennial generation is our great urgent task. We need to realign our parishes and schools towards this task. Here care for the family, the poor and our common home become significant building blocks towards achieving our goal. This is a work of leadership.
Action Step: Read the pastoral plan, reflect on each section, or at least on the sections where you have interest or competency, and give your feedback either through the parish or directly to us.
Scripture Passage: Jeremiah 29:10–14