VISITING “Wynberg”, Archbishop John Bathersby’s residence in New Farm, Brisbane, is an experience many have enjoyed.
There’s something overwhelmingly majestic about walking into the circular driveway and ornate foyer, a seemingly distant “world away” from the surrounding streets.
And what a pleasure it is to be in Archbishop Bathersby’s company – he makes visitors feel “at home”.
That “pleasure of his company” was also experienced by the estimated 3000 participants in the recent “Jesus, Communion, Mission” deanery gatherings held in February and March in each deanery of Brisbane archdiocese – their delight evident in their words before, during and after the sessions.
“It was certainly go, go, go,” Archbishop Bathersby said of the 13 gatherings from February 5 to March 26, the first time he’d visited all deaneries for the same purpose.
“It was in the style of catechesis from World Youth Day, adjusted to the local scene.”
The gathering format included a “meet and greet” time with Archbishop Bathersby, carefully-constructed input from him and heartfelt testimony from others, worship, prayer, small-group discussion and a question time.
For Archbishop Bathersby there were certain highlights.
“The thing that impressed me most was the young people who witnessed to the faith,” he said.
“Somewhere out there are 26 people who stood up and gave an account of their faith.
“They will be different people for having done that and so will the people who listened. It was quite inspiring.”
Also significant was the support from local clergy, an estimated 80 per cent in attendance.
Kicking off in North East deanery on February 5, numbers were healthy at 250.
Other significant crowds included an estimated 300 from the faith communities of the Gold and Sunshine coasts on February 19 and March 26 (respectively) and a record 350 for Brisbane West.
While Archbishop Bathersby and organiser Mike Humphrys, from the Everyday Mission Team of the Faith and Life Vicariate, said that while the gatherings often had “limited time” for the small-group discussions and questions, the WYD08 catechesis formula remained popular.
Many people have sought the content of Archbishop Bathersby’s presentation which outlined his passion for the “Jesus, Communion, Mission” theme.
“A number of people have asked for the text and I just want to sharpen it up a bit and then get it out,” he said.
That text was based on Archbishop Bathersby’s firm desire to spread the Good News in a world subjected to constant themes contrary to Gospel teachings.
“I feel so passionate about ‘Jesus, Communion, Mission’ and people have picked it up,” Archbishop Bathersby said.
“They speak it like it’s a second language and with a bit of help they can get a grasp of what it means.”
The meaning behind the vision starts with Jesus Christ.
“The whole Jesus thing is that Jesus came to establish a new creation,” Archbishop Bathersby said.
“I’d like people to see the new creation that exists because of Jesus Christ …
“I want people to recognise that each and every other person is their brother or sister in the body of Christ.
“I want people to practise it as they walk along the footpath and say ‘Each and every person is my brother and sister’.
“That way the Jesus in you, embedded as the risen Christ, goes out through actions of kindness, forgiveness, love and to help other people.
“(And) it comes back to you as the Jesus in that person.
“I want people to see a new world, a new creation, that’s what Jesus is all about, that’s the new vision of Jesus and that’s why I want them to understand ‘Jesus, Communion, Mission’ … I want people to be happy Christians.”
Archbishop Bathersby desires parishes to have this vision at their core.
“I’d like parishes to have ‘Jesus, Communion, Mission’ embedded so the average person knows what’s being talked about,” he said.
“Therefore there may be a need to get someone to go to parishes and to break down in smaller groups what I did in one night.”
Archbishop Bathersby said the apostle St Paul, was “always on about a new heart and a new mind” and how our lives can be transformed.
“Once someone takes it on board (becoming a “new creation”) they become a new person,” he said.
“(But) you have to look for it. If you sit in front of your TV set and all you see is violence you say, ‘Where is this new world?’
“You have to look beneath the surface and you’ll see the person caring for the other person, the acts of kindness you won’t find on television … you see that goodness is around, everywhere.”
Archbishop Bathersby intends engaging with the deaneries in a similar way next year, saying, “The Christian faith is something absolutely marvellous and we have to be able to communicate it.”
In the meantime, about 2500 Jesus, Communion, Mission resource folders, which include the Archbishop’s three pastoral statements on the vision, have been distributed.
Individuals, groups and pastoral councils are drawing on these resources to better understand the archdiocesan vision.