Lists of Conference attendees according to Diocesan membership were placed up in the dining hall area, and we were asked to find our name and group location and find the others in our group list in the main hall. The lists covered everyone who attended the Conference over the three days, and quite a number were only able to attend one day of the Conference. In hindsight it would have been far better to have only had Saturday attendees on those lists, so that at least you would have a sizeable group to work with.
When we finally got ourselves settled, we were asked as diocesan groups to talk together about 4 questions. These are the answers our group came up with:
Q1. How can Parish live the joy of the Gospel and mission joyfully?
Identify the natural evangelists and train them up.
Form a quorum team to drive change and to invite parish members to mission.
Welcome. Focus on that. Especially welcoming visitors to our Sunday Eucharist.
Get parishioners to read the Rebuilt book.
Gather a team to take hold of the vision, train people up, plan and implement those plans – and present all that via PowerPoint in the few minute prior to weekend Mass.
Introduce people to quotes from Pope Francis' Apostolic Exhortation, Joy of the Gospel / Evangelii Gaudium.
Ask the St Vincent de Paul members to listen more effectively to their clients.
Q2. Pick one idea to take forward and develop.
Have a welcome message before Mass starts, and soft and gentle music, eg Gregorian Chant.
Have a concierge desk.
Produce a Welcome pack to make it easier for people to register as parishioners.
Have a welcoming committee / team and give them training and formation.
Provide a sash for those in the ministry of welcome to wear.
Provide online options for parish registration, eg via iPad.
Provide special welcome packs for Families, and detailed information online.
Have some publicity produced at both parish and diocesan levels.
Gain the support of the parish pastoral council (PPC).
Q3. What support/framework do you need to make it happen? Blue sky thinking.
Online resources via diocesan website.
The Parish Support Unit is available to assist you, but it has to have a clearly articulated vision from you first before it can work with you.
Q4. What is your own personal commitment?
Engage in more conversations with people, and encourage them.
For a PDF document summary of the answers the other diocesan groups had, visit http://www.proclaimconference.com.au/pdf/Feedback_from_PROCLAIM.pdf , but remember a) that the meaning people had when they wrote on their pink post-it notes may not be the meaning those who collated those notes received and transmitted and b) many of those groups may have had less than 5 people in them of the 10-13 people on the group list.
The Australian bishops at the Conference then gave us their feedback, their personal reflections on the three days, their encouragement, and a few challenges to go home with.
Bishop Comensoli (then auxiliary bishop of Sydney, now bishop of Broken Bay)
I have taken these three things away from the Conference : a) Growth is always a step outside our comfort zone b) Parish is where the Church lives and c) Parish is a neighbourhood not just a congregation. I ask everyone to question themselves, 'Where will I be in 2 years?', and I make a request of you to make sure Aussie Alex (M or F) is at the Conference in 2 years' time. As I look out over you, I notice that we are still very Anglo-looking, and we need to make an effort to engage with the non-Anglo people in our parishes and make sure that there are more of them here next time.
Bishop Bird (bishop of Ballarat)
I have been inspired by your dedication and commitment to spreading the Gospel. The key message for me has been 'Tweet others as you would like them to Tweet you'. It is a message about respect. It is a call to proclaim the good news of Jesus with respect to the hearer, and through the use of technology – but we must communicate the love of God to them. Any planning at the parish level needs to take into account the good of the individuals and the community, and be done respecting where they are at. The aim is to try not to respond to aggression with aggression and to find the positive values that they are about and to connect with them that way. So in summary : Proclaim with respect to the hearers, and tweet others but tweet them gently.
Monsignor Entwistle (Protonotory Apostolic of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross)
(Earlier in the Conference, on Friday morning, Mons Entwistle challenged us to learn what a personal ordinariate is. The answer is most dioceses are geographical ecclesiastical administrative structures, however an ordinariate is a non-geographic ecclesiastical administrative structure. Read http://www.ordinariate.org.au/About%20Us/aboutus_ordinariates.htm to find out more.)
I trust that you had fruitful discussions in your diocesan groups. That was a bit hard for me, since I was the sole representative here of my diocese which is scattered from Perth to Cairns. St Paul tells us that Jesus Christ is the visible expression of the invisible God. Jesus makes God accessible to people and to the world, enabling us to have a relationship with Him. Jesus got Himself among the outsiders and made Himself available to them. He was also approachable. We are the Body of Christ, the visible presence of God to the people of this time. How approachable is the parish you are in to the world? If someone actually steps in the door – how approachable are you? Battle the indifference, opposition and apathy and persevere and work around the difficulties. Keep in mind the words of the prophet Micah, 'Without vision, the people perish'.
Bishop Ingham (Bishop of Wollongong, formerly auxiliary bishop of Sydney)
Some weeks ago the Catholic Weekly reported me saying, 'Come to Proclaim and have a Faith lift'. And that's really what we have experienced over these last three days. The way to bring people back is through hospitality, preaching and music. In recent times I heard the story of a man who chose to wear a big red floppy hat to Mass. Before, during and after Mass several people, including the parish priest, came up to him and said, 'You can't wear that hat here, you are blocking other people's view'. To which the man replied, 'I have been coming here for three years and no one has ever spoken to me until today, although it was only to ask me to remove the hat'. In our parishes, we have to do better than that. Not so long ago I was in front of the mirror shaving while thinking about the sermon I was to give when I cut my face. And the thought came to me that I would do better to think about my face and to cut down the length of my sermon. If you have been given a good voice, use that gift. If not, then use it anyway and relish the opportunity to get even with God for not giving you a good voice.
As the Conference participants were commissioned to go out and put what they had received into practice, a final scripture passage was read out from Luke 5:1-11 about the disciples getting into 2 boats close to the shore and Jesus getting into one of them to preach. When He had finished preaching He asked the fishermen to go into deep water and pay out their nets for a catch. They replied that they had fished all night and had caught nothing, but that they were willing to give it a go on His say-so. This time they filled both boats to almost sinking point. At this Simon Peter fell at the knees of Jesus and said, 'Leave me, Lord, for I am a sinful man', and Jesus replied to him, 'Do not be afraid, from now on it is men you will catch.'
That is the official end of the Conference notes, although during 2015 I hope to listen to the podcasts of some of the workshops I was unable to attend and make the notes I take available via these blog-posts. Should the good Lord provide both the time and the impetus I will also work on getting all these Notes into some kind of downloadable print format and Kindle format.
Some of the workshops have been made available as podcasts via www.xt3.com
To access them visit http://www.xt3.com/library/view.php?id=17454
Some of the talks and workshops are now available from http://www.proclaimconference.com.au/resources.
Several video clips, transcripts, handouts and slide presentations are downloadable.
These Notes are only one person's version of what they heard, and they are not a literal transcript.