Vision for our Catholic Parish
Friends, our Parish Summit Day at Unity College Auditorium is only one week away! Over the last seven weeks, most of our communities have watched and listened to videos of people sharing their vision and dreams for key ministry areas in Catholic parishes. Our Summit Day is the most important part of our Strategic Planning Process because it offers a space for your voice to be heard as we discuss the future of our Coastal and Hinterland Parish—and importantly, how we are going to get there. Perhaps the most important aspect of this process – from my perspective at least – is encouraging you to think outside the box.
Imagine, if you will, a picture of your dream house: what does it look like? Your dream house will not have been put together or built arbitrarily, but with a deliberate plan in mind – a plan which took into consideration the purpose of the building. Similarly, I invite you to consider the purpose of a Catholic Parish – our parish. Is our purpose limited to providing a place for people to celebrate Sacraments? Certainly not, but the reality we face is that for many people, this is the only purpose a Catholic Parish serves. Our purpose, as baptised worshiping members of the parish, is to be deliberate in our efforts to make disciples. We will do this by promoting the inclusion of Children & Families and Youth & Young Adults in our parish; by learning and growing as disciples in our own Faith & Formation, whilst at the same time, offering nourishing Worship opportunities. Our purpose also extends to deliberately promoting a healthy Community Life as well as Service and Outreach opportunities – all in the name of making disciples.
As we approach the Summit Day, I invite you to grasp the vision that every member of the parish has a role to play in building our dream house (the parish) so that we can be intentional about disciple-making. To carry on the metaphor, for some of us, our role is to prepare the ground by digging holes and pouring concrete for a firm foundation, while others prepare the wood and building materials. Some build the wooden structure while others use their skills to install electrical cables. We would also have plasterers, plumbers, roofers, painters and decorators etc.
Imagine, however, if all these workers didn’t have an image of the finished product or set of plans to direct their work!
My job, as your Parish Leader, is to share with you the image (vision) of the finished product. Our job together, as members of the parish, is to make the building a reality by using our skills and gifts as God has allotted them. I dream of a parish where all parishioners have a role in cultivating and promoting a culture of inclusion – where our default or subconscious criteria for others to be parishioners don’t start and stop with the question, “Do they come to Mass?” but is built upon a clearly defined strategy which includes concrete opportunities to invite people into: first, a trusting relationship with ourselves. And then, into a sense of curiosity and openness to a personal relationship with Jesus as disciples.
I envision a culture of healthy expectation, wherein as worshiping members of the parish we worship and encounter Jesus with open hearts, serve with generous hearts according our God-given gifts, and give sacrificially with abundant hearts. I envisage a parish wherein at least 70% of worshiping parishioners serve in a disciple-making ministry every year.
Finally, I dream of a parish culture wherein Evangelisation – bringing other people to deeply know, love and follow Jesus (becoming a disciple) – is our number one priority as disciples ourselves (Mt 28:19). Friends, in this parish, we have all the skills, gifts and talents we need to do the work of disciple-making which we were assigned at Baptism. This work – called evangelisation – underpins every single ministry and all that we do. It gives us a measuring stick and question to ask: is what we’re doing leading others to Jesus? In our final video this week, Deacon Peter Pellicaan, Executive Director of Evangelisation Brisbane, challenges our approach to living, doing and being a Catholic Parish. His challenge stems from our purpose for existence as a parish: that we make disciples of others. I invite you to respond to Deacon Peter’s challenge by offering your thoughts and ideas on how we can become a parish of disciples who go to make other disciples by completing this last ministry survey on evangelisation.
See you at the Summit Day,
Fr Josh Whitehead