Since I am a copious note taker, and the content of the Conference deserves a much wider audience, I will dedicate the next series of blog posts to sharing these rough transcripts and the thoughts they engendered. How long that will take is in God's hands, depending on Him to provide the time. Hopefully there should be some more content every few days until I run out.
Welcome Messages, Monday 1 Sep 2016
Bishop Peter Comensoli
Good morning and welcome to Proclaim 2016, a special welcome to Chatswood and a welcome to Spring. We are hoping for a World Youth Day feel, despite the lack of parish flags and matching t-shirts. Happily we have a wonderful gathering of parish faithful from across Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. We are an expression of the Church in microcosm in our gathering today. On behalf of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) and the diocese of Broken Bay I extend a warm welcome to you all. This is the third Proclaim conference, the others we held here in 2012 and 2014. In these conferences we bring together laity, religious, clergy and movements dedicated to parish and mission. We are all called and sent by God to go and make disciples. Our parishes are the heart and soul of this mission.
Message from Pope Francis
The Most Reverend Peter A. Comensoli,
Bishop of Broken Bay
The Holy Father asks you kindly to convey his cordial greetings to all assembled in the Diocese of Broken Bay for the third National Conference on Evangelisation, Proclaim 2016: Mercy. He trusts that in this Holy Year, devoted to the preaching and practice of Mercy, the Conference will contribute to a more effective proclamation of the Gospel message of forgiveness, redemption and interior renewal. In a world increasingly wounded by alienation, fragmentation and forgetfulness of God, he urges Christian families and young people in particular to be missionary disciples, radiating in their homes, parishes and communities the joy of the Gospel and the hope it offers for the building of a society of true solidarity and freedom. He likewise prays that, in crossing the threshold of the Jubilee Holy Door, God's People in Australia will experience a renewed encounter with Jesus, the door (John 10:7) leading to life and salvation, and thus be confirmed in the prophetic mission received in baptism. With these sentiments, His Holiness commends the Conference to the loving intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, and cordially imparts his Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of joy and peace in the Lord.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin
Secretary of State
23 August 2016
The two masters of ceremonies for the Conference were David Patterson and Alison Newell , both of Broken Bay diocese.
Uncle Neil Evers a direct descendant of the Guringai clan that lived in this area gave the Welcome to Country address.
I draw upon and acknowledge the strength and courage of the traditional custodians of this land. The word that we use for 'Welcome to Country' means 'Come Together'. Welcome to Country is a rite of showing respect to the custodians of country, whether you were going through their land or to their land. Otherwise it would be like going into someone's house uninvited. If you have seen a map of the Aboriginal language groups of Australia, you would know that there were at least 350 language groups. Each one represented a different country. Everyone knew the boundaries of each country, because they were clearly marked. You only went in with permission and with respect to the rules of the country you were in. This wasn't political correctness, but age old tradition. Imagine how it was before European colonisation, with everything crystal clear, an abundance of wildlife, with designated hunting, gathering and hunting grounds. They didn't own the land, they were custodians of it. When we 'come together' we can be strong, we can make a difference. The more we learn, the more we understand. On behalf of them, elders and custodians past and present, I welcome you to this beautiful country.
David P: This conference is about helping Catholics to engage in the New Evangelisation. Parishes play an essential role in evangelization. Pope Francis wrote this about parishes in Evangelii Gaudium 28:
'The parish is not an outdated institution; precisely because it possesses great flexibility, it can assume quite different contours depending on the openness and missionary creativity of the pastor and the community. While certainly not the only institution which evangelizes, if the parish proves capable of self-renewal and constant adaptivity, it continues to be “the Church living in the midst of the homes of her sons and daughters”. This presumes that it really is in contact with the homes and the lives of its people, and does not become a useless structure out of touch with people or a self-absorbed group made up of a chosen few. The parish is the presence of the Church in a given territory, an environment for hearing God’s word, for growth in the Christian life, for dialogue, proclamation, charitable outreach, worship and celebration. In all its activities the parish encourages and trains its members to be evangelizers. It 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. We must admit, though, that the call to review and renew our parishes has not yet sufficed to bring them nearer to people, to make them environments of living communion and participation, and to make them completely mission-oriented.'
In these words of Pope Francis are vision, and tools, for moving our parishes from maintenance to mission, and an invitation to both personal and cultural change.
Dignitaries were acknowledged, apologies from archbishops and bishops noted, and sponsors and exhibitors thanked. Professor Dermot Nestor of ACU, executive Dean of the Faculty of Theology and Philosophy spoke briefly before Archbishop Coleridge led the Conference in Morning Prayer.
The blessing and message from Pope Francis for the Conference was an unexpected bonus.
It was sad that the Apostolic Nuncio and many of the bishops who came in 2014 were unable to attend in 2016. Speculating on causes, three come to mind:
•That with the National Office for Evangelisation (which worked on the 2012 and 2014 conferences) seeking a director, Broken Bay diocese stepped in to pull the conference together in around 7 months. Normally there would be 2 years of planning, and most bishops' diaries are booked out more than 7 months in advance.
•It was a World Youth Day year, and most diocesan resources went towards getting young people and clergy to Krakow, not leaving much left over.
•The pulling power of the writers of Rebuilt to get people to sign up for Proclaim 2014 was immense, and not easily replicated.
The Welcome to Country speech was an eye-opener for me. Prior to it I had viewed the Welcome to Country stuff as a nice thing to be done, but dripping with political correctness. Now I can see it as true diplomacy and necessary respect. So many good things would happen if we stopped seeing ourselves as owners and started seeing ourselves as temporary custodians.
In the next issue will have the Keynote speech of Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington. who put the calls of Pope Francis within the context of the last 50 years since Vatican II and outlined what we need to do to respond to those calls.