Joy and enthusiasm abound at Evangelium Conference

Participants at the Archdiocese of Hobart’s Evangelium Conference felt enthusiastic, joyful and inspired after hearing from a range of speakers on the importance of becoming missionary disciples.

Nearly 80 people from around the state learned about pastoral conversion of parish communities at the conference at Christ the Priest Church, Kingston, on 28 August.

Archbishop Julian said he hoped the conference would be ‘a source of vision and purpose’ for all in attendance, with its packed program of speakers, workshops, prayer and an evening rally.

“This conference invites us to see ways in which our parishes can be places of outreach and mission,” the Archbishop said in his welcome to participants.

“Pope Francis constantly encourages the Church to look outwards and not become stuck in being, as he describes, ‘self-referential’.”

The key note speakers were the Director of the Office of Renewal and Evangelisation in the Diocese of Wollongong, Jude Hennessy, and the Australian Catholic Lead for Alpha in a Catholic Context, Donna Brennan.

Dr Christine Wood, Archdiocesan Director of the Office of Evangelisation and Catechesis, said that it was ‘most encouraging to experience the joy and enthusiasm of the participants who were keen to share their faith, to come together as a Church community, and to work to renew parish life. It’s like a new spring-time in the Church in Tasmania’.

“We hope that participants will have a sense of hope for the future of the Church in Tasmania,” Dr Wood said.

“They were introduced to initiatives that could be established in our parishes to help people grow spiritually, including ministry for married couples, men and youth, lay catechists, prayer, and tools for evangelisation.”

Kingston-Channel Parish Priest Fr Mike Delaney, whose parish hosted the conference, praised the ‘excellent’ presentations.

“The call to be missionary disciples was very real through the whole day,” Fr Delaney said.

“[Participants had] a sense that there are others on the journey with them. There is an understanding that there are ways of making a difference … [and ways to] lead others to that next step.”

Fr Delaney is keen to see the workshop component of the conference further strengthened in future years as a means of building on the first-class presentations and ‘pushing it to another level’.

People are hungry and searching for God

Inviting everyone to a personal encounter with Jesus can help to revitalise parishes, according to one of the participants at the Evangelium Conference.

Marie Aitken, a parishioner from St John the Baptist Church, Glenorchy, was enthusiastic about the conference, held at Christ the Priest Church, Kingston, last month.

“I found the conference inspiring and challenging,” Ms Aitken said.

“Presenters and participants were enthusiastic, joyful and keen to become ‘a change of era’ as Pope Francis has urged us to do.

“A couple of messages that I took away were firstly, that parishes need to become revitalised by inviting everyone to a personal encounter with Jesus because people are not necessarily evangelised without that personal encounter; and secondly, that parishes need a critical mass of people who love God so that others will want what we have got. 

“We are in a lifeboat and we need to pull people in so they can be saved too. We can’t do it without invoking the Holy Spirit to renew us and aligning our will to God’s.”

Ms Aitken said that being a missionary disciple involved looking outward and going beyond just maintaining the status quo.

“People are searching and hungry for God,” she added.

“We need to reach out to them.  Parishioners too are not just hungry for food but for a purpose – the mission of making Jesus known and loved. We have to take risks, believe in possibilities and ‘go fishing’.”

 Ms Aitken explained that four people from her parish attended the conference, including two from the Parish Pastoral Council (PPC)

“The PPC is … exploring initiatives which will help to grow our parish ministries and possibly set up new ones,” Ms Aitken said.  “The ideas from the conference will help to inform our planning, especially through the practical ideas … gained from the workshops … which focussed on youth ministry and parish renewal through Eucharistic Adoration or Alpha. I will also be able to reach other members of the parish through my involvement with the Parish Liturgy Committee.”    

Event had the ‘wow’ factor

Attending the Evangelium Conference was a ‘positive and uplifting experience’, according to North West Coast couple Elisabeth Ryan and Michael Ryan, of Stanley.

The Ryans were among 11 members of Couples for Christ Australia (CFCA) who attended the event at Kingston.

“This was our first [Evangelium] and everyone went, ‘Wow’,” Mrs Ryan said.

“It is a great thing to do and we need to encourage more people to go next time because it so worthwhile.”

Mrs Ryan said the conference highlighted some of the enjoyable and rewarding facets of being a Catholic.

“The information was helpful but put in such a way that is very positive and uplifting,” Mrs Ryan added.

“It changes your thinking pattern from you’ve ‘got to’ go to Mass on Sunday to ‘I can’t wait’. It invigorates a person to nurture and further their [faith] studies… And we want to do more … [so] we are starting within our own parish to do a Rosary a week [and] a Bible reflection where we re-read a passage and discuss it. We are looking for activities within our own parishes as well as bringing it to our regular CFCA meetings.”

Mrs Ryan added that events such as the Evangelium Conference help to ‘nurture people back to the Church’.

“A lot of the problems on this Earth are created by lack of faith and lack of Christianity …,” Mrs Ryan said.

“When people come back to the Church they find peace and they find joy and a kinship again with like-minded people.”

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