A new vision for Tasmanian parishes launched

By Catherine Sheehan

Archbishop Julian Porteous has launched a major new initiative for the Archdiocese of Hobart, seeking to reignite the missionary spirit in parish communities around Tasmania.

The Parish Mission Plan entitled, ‘A Vision for Parishes: Encounter, Discipleship and Mission’ was officially launched by Archbishop Julian on 31 January during an online meeting with priests of the Archdiocese.

Encountering Christ was key, Archbishop Julian said, in bringing about renewal in parishes.

“Encounter with the person of Jesus Christ is at the heart of the Catholic faith,” Archbishop Julian said. “The key to renewing our parish will be the opportunity for our people to have a real personal encounter with Christ.”

Photo: Josh Low

“That would happen particularly through exposure to the Word of God and the liturgy, through the sacramental life.

“It doesn’t have to be some Damascus Road experience… If you read the Word of God and you sense it’s speaking to your life in a very particular way, it’s an encounter with God.”

Over the next 12 months, parishes will be encouraged to devise a strategy of simple initiatives to become more mission oriented in evangelising their own parishioners as well as reaching out to the broader community. This will involve parish priests working closely with a small number of parishioners to envision what they would like their community to be, and introduce new initiatives to work towards that vision and foster a greater sense of mission.

“The place to begin is to dream of what we would like our parish to become,” Archbishop Julian said. “What would we love to see happen to our parish so that it becomes a vibrant Christian community?”

Archbishop Julian said focusing on ‘encounter’, ‘discipleship’ and ‘mission’ was meant to encourage priests and parishioners to “see their parish in a new way”.

“It’s not about programmes,” Archbishop Julian said. “It’s not about formulas for how to do things. It’s really about creating a culture in the parish.”

“I’m really trying to change the mode of thinking, get people seeing things in a new light.”

Having an encounter with Christ can then lead to discipleship, as faith is nourished, nurtured and inspired. This in turn leads to the desire to share the joy of faith with others, becoming missionary disciples.

“Discipleship is an intentional and personal commitment to follow Jesus, allowing him to fashion our faith and way of life. The parish is the school of discipleship.”

“The priest is the leader of the parish community as a school of discipleship. His pastoral vision for the parish, his inspiring and intentional preaching and teaching are of vital importance.”

While some may be daunted by the notion of becoming missionary disciples, it’s really just a matter of taking small steps towards sharing the faith with others, he said.

“There are times when we have opportunities to invite people to things, and we should seize those opportunities… the Christian life and the life of our parishes are dynamic spiritual realities. They’re not just functional things that happen. If we can bring about that change of consciousness during this year, I think we would’ve gone a long way.”

Project Officer of the Parish Mission Team, Ruth Sternberg, said she was excited to be assisting the parishes in their journey of renewal.

“What I find most exciting about this initiative is that it hinges on an encounter with Jesus and how in that moment, a spark of wonder and joy is ignited, that is then shared and multiplies in the community,” Ruth said.

Photo: Josh Low

“It is the catalyst that leads someone to want to become a missionary disciple and share this Good News when the opportunity presents itself,” she added.

“In my personal experience the encounter with Christ gave me the desire to explore the depth and the truth of the faith which I took for granted as a cradle Catholic. As I continue to learn, I am joyous at being able to share what I have come to know, with fellow Catholics, other Christians and those that have not yet come to faith.”

Each month this year a leaflet discussing an aspect of mission will be distributed to parishes and it is hoped several online meetings with parishes will take place throughout the year. The Evangelium Conference will also be held in August.

Archbishop Julian said he hoped the Parish Mission Plan would “bring new life and vitality to parishes”.

“This year the focus is largely on getting some momentum behind the idea,” Archbishop Julian said.

“I’m hoping of course that parishes get some initiatives up and running and are encouraged as they progress.

“I’m hoping this will become the culture of our parishes here in Tasmania, that we are all missionary communities.”

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