By Paul Dobbyn
EVANGELISATION Brisbane, with its focus on fine-tuning the vehicle of mission, is like a team of mechanics readily on hand to keep parishes throughout Brisbane archdiocese on the road.
The team is also ready, willing and able to help with complete overhauls of parishes, which for one reason or another may be struggling with their mission.
EB can also provide assistance on a range of subjects from youth work to social justice and multicultural issues, to more hands-on matters such as preparing faith education literature.
“We can’t solve all the problems but we’ve got a variety of tools to help with everything from pastoral planning to helping parishes get their pastoral councils up and running again,” EB project team leader Ursuline Sister Kari Hatherell said.
“Also we take into account individual needs of parishes – it’s not about this is the way you must do it and that’s it.
“Obviously the needs of a parish such as Childers will be different from, say, Surfers Paradise.”
If Evangelisation Brisbane can be compared with a team of mechanics, then its workshop manual is most definitely Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel).
This was made clear at the archdiocese’s Annual Pastoral Council Development Day in March.
Each of the more than 170 participants received a program guide bearing on its cover one of the Pope’s statements from Evangelii Gaudium.
“The parish is a community of communities, a sanctuary where the thirsty come to drink in the midst of their journey, and a centre of constant missionary outreach,” the quote read.
“Pope Francis has been a gift to us in showing a way to approach the work of the parish pastoral council,” Sr Kari said.
“Evangelii Gaudium is quite refreshing to read – very optimistic and upbeat – and it does give direction on ways to achieve the Christian mission in today’s society … it’s not just ‘pie in the sky’.”
EB administrative assistant Mary-Anne Cullen said this inspiration was very apparent on the annual development day for the archdiocese’s pastoral councils.
“The beauty was there were 170 or so people from parish councils sitting sharing ideas in small groups,” she said.
“They were clearly enjoying this opportunity to network and to share their experiences from being on pastoral councils around the archdiocese.”
Also energising the gathering, held at Carina’s Dominic Centre on March 14, was a focus on mission stories from three parishes.
“There were three quite different mission stories on the day,” Ms Cullen said.
“Sue and Bren Milsom, from Burleigh Heads, spoke on their experience of visiting East Timor to evaluate needs of the Catholic community there, and then taking a group of parishioners over as a follow-up.
“Lisa Forbes talked about the Jubilee Parish’s work with refugees.
“Surfers Paradise’s Heather MacDonald shared her journey through the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) program – how the welcome she received nurtured her faith and a desire to share her faith with others.”
Sr Kari said Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge and Centacare Mission and Formation director Fr John Chalmers had also presented valuable insights in their talks on the day.
“Archbishop Mark discussed the Gospel of Mark and what it had to say about mission,” she said.
“In his talk, he said ‘the scripture is never once upon a time – it’s here and now’.
“The Archbishop also spoke on the importance of being with Jesus – if we are not with Him, we can’t be sent out by Him and empowered by Him for mission.”
Fr Chalmers’ talk was titled What Might Pope Francis Say to Us About Pastoral Councils?
Quoting from Evangelii Gaudium, Fr Chalmers said: “Never forget that the Lord has taken the initiative; he has loved us first, and therefore we can move forward, boldly take the initiative, go out to others, seek those who have fallen away, stand at the crossroads and welcome the outcast.”
Sr Kari said Fr Chalmers also used one of his own favourite images of mission.
“It’s a simple and great image around gathering and scattering,” she said.
“We gather for our own identity in worship and then we scatter to live our lives as missionaries in the family, the workplace and so on.
“So pastoral planning is about what happens when we gather and when we scatter – both are equally important.”
The Annual Commissioning Mass for Pastoral Councils at St Stephen’s Cathedral on May 3 was part of the gathering process.
Brightly coloured banners representing Brisbane archdiocese’s 12 deaneries decorated the front of the cathedral at the Mass presided over by Archbishop Coleridge.
In a highly symbolic gesture during the commissioning Mass, each of the pastoral councillors stood up when their deanery was named.
A representative from each deanery then came up to the sanctuary and lit a candle from the Paschal Candle.
“It was the taking of this light back to the various deaneries which provided a symbol for the scattering of Christian witness and service among the many and varied parishes which make up Brisbane archdiocese,” Sr Kari said.