The Church of Maitland-Newcastle is centred on Christ, the Cornerstone, and seeks always to live as a community of people who educate and form
In the pages that follow we explore the third ‘Foundation’ of our life and mission as the church of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.
Our Story takes us to the source of our faith in the early church when they devoted themselves to the Apostles teaching: to deepening their understanding of what Jesus taught.
Foundational Statements remind us of the responsibility we have as individuals and as communities of Jesus’ disciples to deepen our relationship with Jesus and our understanding of his mission.
Concerns summarise the issues raised by diocesan respondents to the Plenary Council Listening and Dialogue Session as well as those who submitted written responses at the first session of our Diocesan Synod in November 2019.
Recommendations suggest what could be done to address the issues raised.
Diocesan respondents to the Plenary Council and our Synod Listening and Dialogue recognised that while the faith formation of children has been a priority, many Catholics have had little or no ongoing faith formation since leaving school.
While faith formation opportunities are available in the Diocese, few access them. There were calls for a Faith Formation Centre with adequate resources of finance and personnel to provide face-to-face and online formation opportunities in a wide range of topics for a wide range of people appropriate to their stage of faith development and their life circumstances.
Respondents expressed concerns about the role of our Catholic schools, the formation of staff and parents, and the need for better communication and collaboration between school and parish communities.
The process of selection and training of candidates for the priesthood and the enculturation of overseas priests were also issues of concern.
On the day of Pentecost visitors to Jerusalem were gripped by a life-changing experience.
They heard Peter and the apostles preaching that a crucified Jesus had been raised to life.
Many were convinced by Peter’s witness, accepted what he taught, and were baptised. They were immersed in a community in which they would learn to know, love, and follow Jesus Christ.
Guided by the Holy Spirit they found Christ, the Wisdom of God, foretold in their scriptures.
They came to know him in a new way which upended presumptions about power and success.
They discovered a suffering messiah to whom they would cling for his promise of fullness of life.
As Jesus had promised the Holy Spirit reminded the disciples of his words and deeds. They were able to grasp their full significance, and to pass on this wisdom to the community being formed.
The Lord’s counter-cultural Beatitudes; his admonitions to turn one’s cheek; to love enemies;
to forgive seventy times seven; to welcome sinners; to wash feet; to embrace crosses; to die in order to live — all these now yielded their true wisdom and formed new hearts and lifestyles.
Knowing the crucified and Risen Jesus as God’s wisdom, power and love enabled them to embrace him in personal relationship, and then make him known to others.
The Holy Spirit enlightened and formed the infant Church as they grew in the Lord, discerning their evolving identity and their mission to take the knowledge of Jesus to the world.
Today, through the same Holy Spirit, we too learn to know Jesus who, in all he said and did as a human being, revealed the fullness of God’s faithful love. When we ask “What must we do?” we likewise are told to see things in a different way and to immerse ourselves in Jesus.
Today, our local church, the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, forms and teaches us as she proclaims Jesus as Son of God, the second person of the Trinity who was made man, who died and rose again to save us from sin and for the fullness of life with God.
Our diocese teaches the doctrines that relate to Christ and to his Church, and the practices and behaviours appropriate to Christ’s followers. More importantly, it provides the formation which makes us one with Jesus as disciples eager to share the good news of God’s love.
Our celebration of the Eucharist is at the core of forming us in Christ. We come to know him in the Scriptures. We are formed most profoundly as we participate in the Last Supper, Calvary, and the Resurrection. We are formed most intimately as we receive Jesus in Holy Communion.
Our diocese provides children with holistic education in a thriving school system and a growing pre-school network. Age-appropriate formation in Christ is fundamental within this endeavour.
State School catechesis and Sacramental Programmes provide a Christian education for some children. The diocese supports parents to be the first and best teachers in the ways of the faith.
For adults, faith formation courses and learning experiences are provided at diocesan level along with learning and formation initiatives in small groups within parishes. In every instance the goal is to produce Catholic Christian disciples who are well-informed about their faith and well formed in Christ.
We believe that formation in faith is an essential and life-long process and the heritage and responsibility of every Christian.
Formation (and not just information) … is not for a select few, but for the faithful generally. As Church, we need to give priority to this (Br Peter Carroll FMS, 14 July 2020)
For lay leaders assuming leadership for governance roles in the Church, especially for those whose expertise has been primarily in the commercial world, formation is needed to ensure a comprehensive understanding is acquired of the nature of the Church and the servant leadership required for service within the Church, either as an employee or as a member of a board. (The Light from the Southern Cross p 89).
Children and young people grow in awareness of themselves and search for meaning and purpose in their lives and in the world around them. Children begin this journey enabled by the nurturing love of parents and families. (Religious Education in Australian Catholic Schools 2017 p 5).
We understand that formation for mission is respectful, experiential and relevant, building on participants’ personal story and everyday reality
The questions of our people, their suffering, their struggles, their dreams, their trials and their worries, all possess a… value that we cannot ignore if we want to take the principle of the incarnation seriously. Their wondering helps us to wonder, their questions question us. (Pope Francis September 2015).
“Unless we train ministers capable of warming people’s hearts, of walking with them in the night, of dialoguing with their hopes and disappointments, of mending their brokenness, what hope can we have for our present and future journey?” (Pope Francis, July 2013).
When [formation] brings faith into dialogue with life it has the capacity to be a source of wisdom, a stimulus to lifelong learning, a means to personal transformation and a call to missionary discipleship (Religious Education in Australian Catholic Schools – National Catholic Education Commission, 2017, p 5).
We are nourished and inspired by formation that is scripturally rich and ecclesially grounded, and deepens our relationship with Jesus, the living Word of God.
It is absolutely necessary for us to take into account the heritage of faith that the Church has the duty of preserving and presenting it to the people of our time in a way that is as understandable and persuasive as possible (Pope Paul VI, Evangelii nuntiandi, 3)
For the Catholic school to achieve its objectives, it needs people who are committed to this faith-filled vision, confident in their understanding of the Christian faith as it comes to expression in the Catholic tradition and eager to do their best to help their students grow in their own understanding of the presence of God at work in their lives. (A Framework for Formation for Mission in Catholic Education — National Catholic Education Commission, 2017, p 3).
BETTER FAITH FORMATION
FE 1.1 That parish communities and diocesan agencies give priority to formation aimed at encouraging and enabling all to understand and participate in the life and mission of the Church.
FE 1.2 That the Diocese provides opportunities for a wide range of people to be accompanied in their faith formation in ways that are appropriate to their life circumstances and their stage of faith development.
FE 1.3 That a network of formation teams be established across the Diocese to encourage, communicate, and promote available faith formation opportunities.
CAREFUL, WELL-PLANNED PROGRAMS
FE 2.1 That research be carried out and a report prepared to determine what future face-to-face and online opportunities the Diocese could finance and support.
FE 2.2 That diocesan ministries and agencies collaborate to create, adopt, or adapt programs for specific groups that are invitational, accessible, Christ-centred, theologically sound and connected to contemporary life.
FE 3.1 That priority be given by diocesan leadership to the establishment of a Diocesan Formation Centre and a dedicated, engaging, and attractive faith formation website.
FE 3.2 That effective communication methods be improved to ensure ongoing formation opportunities are well known and promoted.
FE 4.1 That the diocesan community at all levels, through dialogue and mutual support, develops a better understanding of the mission and goals of Catholic schools in the life of our Church in today’s world.
FE 4.2 That dialogue at diocesan, parish and school levels includes consideration of the need for life-long faith formation, the role and needs of parents, carers, and teachers, the needs and safety of children, the nature of Religious Education programs and the need for effective communication.
FORMATION FOR PRIESTHOOD
FE 5.1 That women and men be involved in the selection of candidates for the priesthood, seminary formation and the review of their ongoing formation as disciples and ministers.
FE 5.2 That the initial and ongoing formation of priests prioritises servant leadership, collaborative ministry, and the dangers of clericalism.
FE 5.3 That initial and ongoing formation emphasises the role of culture, wholistic human development, healthy relationships, and sexuality in the Australian context.
Diocesan Advent Reflection: Waiting with Purpose
As we continue our Synodal journey, an Advent resource Waiting with Purpose has been created for our Diocese. Waiting with Purpose responds to the voices heard during Synod reflections of longing for different forms of prayer that include faith sharing. Waiting with Purpose invites us to use Mystagogical Reflection as our way of encountering Christ in the Advent gospels. It invites us to focus on the presence of Christ in our experience and in the living tradition of our faith, to connect it to life now and to be changed by it.
Mystagogical reflection meets us where we are. No preparation is needed. It’s about being open to encountering Christ so we can live from Christ. It’s deeply personal and communal.
During Advent, our hope is that anyone and everyone will gather a circle of people to reflect on the Advent gospels using Waiting with Purpose, our diocesan Advent Reflection Resource.
For more information on our Advent resources, please visit: www.mn.catholic.org.au/church-mission/catholic-life/liturgy/advent-2021
Diocesan Lenten Reflection: Continuing our Journey
Lent is a time when we turn our focus to God through prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
In prayer, we draw closer in our relationship with God. In prayer, we communicate with him, read his words meditate on them, and contemplate the wonder, awe and beauty of our natural world. Prayer opens us up to love. We fast during this period to acknowledge the sacrifice Jesus made for us on the Cross. While fasting develops self-control, it also leads to spiritual and physical purification and helps us focus our attention more fully on the Cross of Christ. The Lenten call to almsgiving means making other people’s needs our own. The Cross that is carried can be a heavy burden and bring much suffering. We are called to lighten the load of those in need through acts of charity and service.
Each week during Lent we invite members of our Diocesan communities to gather to pray in small local groups, face to face or online. The Lenten reflection focuses on the Mystagogical Reflection (revealing the mystery of God) process. The resource provides the opportunity to encounter Scripture and our Synodal themes. As we encounter the mystery of God in the scripture, we discover the mystery of God in one another through sharing of life and experience.
For more information on our Diocese Lenten Program, please visit: www.mn.catholic.org.au/lent2022