by Archbishop Jason Gordon
The process at arriving at our Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan began in January 2018 with an articulation of the problem by clergy deriving from the issues that were articulated in SYNOD 2012 and which were still relevant at the time.
The five key areas identified (Parish, Family Life, Catholic Education, Leadership in Church and Society, Clergy and Vocation) went to the parishes and were discussed. The feedback was collated and developed into a draft plan—a sixth issue, Youth, was recommended to be a separate key area.
The draft plan was prepared, further discussed by the clergy and then circulated to parishes for a second round of discussions. So, what we have now is a draft plan with Aspiration Statements, Goals and Objectives for each of the six priority areas.
Arising from the discussions, it was decided to focus on two pastoral priorities—Parish and Catholic Education. Within the parish pastoral priority area, the suggestion of revitalising our parishes through the Sunday Experience of the 3 Hs—Hospitality, Hymns and Homilies—screamed to be addressed with urgency.
Our Sunday Mass is an incredible divine worship and we must have the Mass as incredible human worship which will resonate in the hearts of those who are coming to Mass. Our people must walk away every Sunday saying “Wow, that was incredible”.
When I asked persons attending our Ministry Animation Team (MAT) roll out meetings in the six vicariates to rate our hospitality on a scale of 1 to 10, no one rated it more than 5. In fact, many said under 5.
One thing that is most consistent in the gospels is hospitality. Jesus is the most hospitable of persons. Any encounter with God leads to gratitude and hospitality flows from gratitude.
Hospitality is not a ministry that some people do in the church, it is a characteristic and a value for every member of the Church. Once we have an encounter with God, in our gratitude we must be hospitable people of God.
Many are leaving our Church because of the lack of hospitality. If we are to stop the haemorrhage, we must start with hospitality at every level of the Church.
If we begin to be more welcoming as church in simple things—signage, clean and aesthetically welcoming physical environments in the parishes, exude a hospitality from the pews to our fellow Catholics who sit next to us—we will be on the way to igniting a hospitality which will contribute to revitalised parishes.
Our choirs must be a ministry of music/music ministry in our parishes where people are involved in singing the hymns in full participation. This needs a change in thinking, focus and approach; nothing but the best revolving around full, conscious and active participation of the people of God.
We evaluate the Sunday Liturgy by whether we are spiritually fed or not. The homilies play a key role in how we evaluate the impact of the liturgy. Both congregation and priest/deacon have a responsibility for stimulating the liturgy through good homilies. Both have to prepare for the liturgy. We as priests and deacons will work this year in preparing our homilies through formation.
The Ministry Animation Teams will help us to animate the mission and ministry of the parishes which in turn will help us to move forward the 3 Hs in each parish of the archdiocese. We would like to have parishes focus their planning on the 3 Hs in the next year.
The MAT is a small group of people who would be responsible for assisting the parish priest/deacon in coordinating and implementing the work of ministries in the parish—ensuring that plans are implemented, ensuring that the ministries are responding to the pastoral needs of the people of God in the parish.
The Parish Pastoral Council as opposed to the MAT should be more strategic/long term in its outlook. It should be scanning the pastoral landscape of the parish asking critical questions, researching and developing strategic visions and plans with the people of God for the people of God.