Fifth Diocesan Gathering - "Ministry, Mission & Maintenance"
An Experience of the Fifth Diocesan Gathering
Sr Eileen March, Media Officer
It began early Saturday with people arriving at St Patrick’s Cathedral Centre and enjoying a hot cuppa to chase away the chills of the cold morning air. As more arrived, the sense of excitement and expectation grew.
Formal proceedings began at 9.00 am with a welcome from the traditional owners by Darlene Garvey, followed by a report of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Reference Group. Two young men, Josh Arnold and Robert Wharton, sang a song they had written to celebrate their friendship.
This flowed into the prayers of opening liturgy which concluded with the Bishop, each of the parishes and diocesan agencies taking a symbol of their parish or work to the front of the hall for display. These reflections were a good introduction to the theme of the Gathering – “Church in the Third Millennium: Mission, Ministry and Maintenance”.
Through the addresses of the keynote speaker, Fr Anthony (Tony) McSweeney; the reflections of Bishop Morris; the small group discussions and comments; the celebration of the Eucharist, Fr Tony’s response to feedback; the testimonies of people living their diverse vocations of being single, married, a priest, a religious, leader of a priestless parish; the participants were able to reflect on their history, their present and their future. The results were overwhelmingly optimistic.
Most concluded that we are living through a time of change, daunting perhaps and challenging, but also exciting and filled with hope as we try to listen to the Spirit of God who hovered over the waters of chaos and brought forth beauty and life. As with all change there is a loss – of what is known and of what makes us feel secure, but there is also gain – a new ‘consciousness’ of freedom, of new possibilities requiring new responsibility and commitment.
I cannot conclude without a word about the opening liturgy on Sunday morning. Prepared by Lyn Cash and the Pastoral Care Team, it was very moving and made more than a few eyes moist. It epitomised the call to Mission – which is at the same time a call to Ministry and Maintenance – showing the ‘hands on’ side of our reflections.
The concluding liturgy was literally ‘hands on’ with students from St Joseph’s College dipping their hands in paint and pressing them onto a canvas which bore the image of a leafless/lifeless tree. Was this supposed to symbolise that we have to be the leaves of the tree of our Church? That we give it colour and life? – and that we have to be prepared to get our hands dirty in ministry to maintain it? As with all symbols these actions are open to subjective interpretations, but it certainly highlighted one of the points Fr Tony stressed during his first talk – the change in our mindset when Pope Pius XII addressed the people standing outside the Vatican window when his election had just be announced “You are the Church”.
The final act was Bishop Morris distributing plants to representatives of all the parishes so they could take back “something green, something living,” something to remind us of the experience of the Gathering, the experience of being Church, living and growing together, sustaining and nurturing each other – of Mission, Ministry and Maintenance.