As I’m reflecting (and with just a little pressure to actually write!) my thoughts are very much dominated by the Lina’s Project event of 15 September. As I have said elsewhere, we welcomed more than 500 people to come together and witness the diocese admit, with shame, the crimes of church personnel and the church’s cover-ups and failures to report allegations of child sexual abuse.
Since that evening, other related initiatives have occurred and it’s my hope that over time, the wider community will begin to understand that the church in this region continues to seek healing, and specifically, to engage in dialogue about how that can best be facilitated.
There are many areas in which the diocesan church longs to do better and to this end, significant decisions have been made around the foundation of Leadership & Structure. Some of you will know that members of my executive, with some external support, have been working towards greater alignment of the various ministries that are co-ordinated from Cathedral House. The Curia – the members of the executive with whom I work closely – have looked at ways of helping staff to work more co-operatively and with less duplication. This project has been named “Many parts. One body. One mission.” and while it has not been without its stumbling blocks, I remain committed to its implementation and to greater collaboration across agencies and ministries.
One reason for this determination is the scope of expansion of works and ministries across the diocese. New schools, new St Nicholas Early Education Centres and affordable housing in a number of areas have increased the diocesan footprint, not merely in terms of assets and works, but more importantly, in terms of contributing to the community, especially in serving the vulnerable and marginalised. An unintended consequence of this development, satisfying as it is, can be an increasingly disparate organisation. So while there are Many parts, it is very much my desire that there be One body. One mission.
While seeing new schools move from drawing board to ground-breaking to blessing and opening is also very satisfying, it has been a year of celebrations of significant anniversaries in a number of our schools. St Mary’s Campus, All Saints College, Maitland, marked the sesquicentenary of the arrival of the Dominican Sisters in 1867, and San Clemente High School and St Columban’s Primary, both at Mayfield and both owning a strong Dominican heritage, have celebrated centenaries. St Kevin’s Primary at Cardiff is also marking one hundred years of Catholic education. I have enjoyed participating in various celebratory occasions, particularly observing the ways in which the founding charisms continue to thrive.
It was a pleasure to meet the young founders of Orange Sky Laundry, Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett, at the launch of both Orange Sky Laundry and DARA’s Van. DARA is the diocese’s Development and Relief Agency, which is working in partnership with Orange Sky Laundry to provide the opportunity to wash and dry clothes, to enjoy a hot drink and a meal, and just as importantly, to sit down and chat to friends who are non-judgemental and genuinely committed to outreach that is not aligned to any church or cause other than that of humanity.
On the national scene, a Plenary Council will be held in 2020 and a number of preparatory steps have been taken. Such structures are of course necessary to ensure an effective event, but just as necessary will be a collective willingness to be open-hearted, to be willing to hear more than the usual voices and views, to work towards strengthening a truly Australian church and to echo, in as many ways as possible, the vision of Pope Francis for a “field hospital” church.
It is my strong hope that here in Maitland-Newcastle we, as a diocesan community, will contribute to the Plenary Council in ways that will build up our local church and help us regain some of our earlier vim and vigour.
These are not easy times. The church has lost much of its credibility and responses to a variety of recent legislative proposals have demonstrated that at best, the church’s voice is just one among many. Often, it’s a voice derided.
Nevertheless, I commend to you the voices of this review!