The Church of Maitland-Newcastle is centred on Christ, the Cornerstone, and seeks always to live as a community of people who pray and worship
In the pages that follow we explore the second ‘Foundation’ of our life and mission as the church of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.
Our Story reminds us that since the beginning Jesus’ followers have devoted themselves to the ‘breaking of bread and the prayers’ – in memory of Jesus.
Foundational Statements point to the qualities that should identify communities of Jesus’ disciples who pray and worship.
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 concerns raised.
Diocesan respondents to the Plenary Council and our Synod Listening and Dialogue spoke of the need to deepen our relationship with God, our understanding of the Eucharist, and our commitment to the mission to which the Eucharist sends us.
Respondents expressed concern about falling Mass attendance, about the language of the Liturgy, about the need for engaging homilies that speak to the lives of those listening, and about preparation for and celebration of the sacraments.
Some expressed the need for more contemporary and less structured gatherings for prayer and worship that would give people the opportunity to share their faith and life experiences and to address social concerns and national tragedies.
Some recognised the advantages that, in today’s lifestyles, coming to Mass can be a challenge for families, shift workers and the elderly. Could we look for a different response, for example using technology, to create experiences to enrich faith experiences?
The community of disciples born of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost remained faithful to ‘the prayers’.
They went as a body to the Temple every day, worshiping God in continuity with their heritage. The Psalms rang out in their hearts in synagogue and Temple worship, just as they had for Jesus.
Those who had walked with Jesus in Galilee witnessed to their experience of him at prayer. They had observed Jesus communing with his Father, often seeking solitude for this intimacy.
Jesus had taught them how to pray. He invited them in childlike simplicity to boldly and confidently approach Abba, our Father, asking God to reign in our world and provide for our needs.
These eye-witnesses told how Jesus prayed for his Father’s guidance and strength when facing difficulties and at critical junctures in his ministry. This was reflected in the practice of the infant church which prayed as a community when confronting challenges and discerning new pathways.
The eye-witnesses related how Jesus did mighty works of healing. The early Christians therefore invoked the name of Jesus confidently, calling on him to work through them to heal.
Most distinctively of all, the first Christians met in their homes for the breaking of bread. ‘Do this in memory of me’, Jesus had said. Feeding with earthly sustenance was accompanied by the meal of Christ’s Body and Blood. Like the two disciples at Emmaus ‘they recognised him in the breaking of bread’.
At the heart of their celebration was the unity and love which Jesus had prayed for at the last supper when he gave himself in the humble service of washing feet and in the Eucharist.
Today prayer still unites us with God as individuals and as diocese, and with one another in Christ.
The heart of our union is the Eucharist, the ‘source and summit of the Christian life’. As Catholics in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle we gather at our parish Mass to celebrate the Lord’s Day.
The Lord himself is present in word and action, in the very community he gathers around him, and in the Priest who presides. We are sustained by the word of Scripture, and nourished on Eucharist.
We go from Mass taking all we have celebrated to our lives, and the love of God to our encounters.
As it was in Apostolic times we celebrate birth into our Catholic Christian community. Immersion into the life of God and the life of the community is accomplished in the Sacrament of Baptism.
Infants are welcomed and cherished. Adults are embraced. The baptised are confirmed in Christian faith and fully initiated into the community of Christ’s disciples in the Eucharistic meal. Here they have access to the fullness of sacramental blessings bestowed by our gracious Lord.
As well as our sacramental and liturgical celebrations, there are within our diocese opportunities to commune with God in the intimacy of solitude, and in the embrace of community. Eucharistic adoration, rosary, charismatic gatherings, Zoom prayer meetings and Lectio Divina are but some of the devotions enriching the lives of individuals and faith communities.
We gather in community – to pray, to break open the Word, to celebrate, to encourage and support one another, to mourn our losses, to be nourished and strengthened for mission.
In the face of so many wounds that hurt us and could lead to a hardness of heart, we are called to dive into the sea of prayer, which is the sea of the boundless love of God, in order to experience his tenderness. (Pope Francis on Twitter)
Miracles happen. But prayer is needed! Prayer that is courageous, struggling and persevering, not prayer that is a mere formality (Pope Francis on Twitter)
You pray for the hungry. Then you feed them. That’s how prayer works (Pope Francis on Twitter)
We believe that our mission finds its source and summit in the Eucharist (LG 11). When lived in everyday life and celebrated in the liturgy, the Eucharist is the living symbol of Christ’s life, death and resurrection and celebrates the deepest identity of the Church as a communion of life, love and truth.
When you hear ‘The body of Christ’ you reply ‘Amen.’ Be a member of Christ’s body, then, so that your ‘Amen’ may ring true (from a homily by St Augustine)
We seldom notice how each day is a holy place/ Where the eucharist of the ordinary happens/ Transforming our broken fragments/ Into an eternal continuity that keeps us (John O’Donohue A Book of Blessings 2007).
“The Church is called to be the house of the Father, with doors always wide open … This is especially true of the sacrament which is itself ‘the door’: Baptism. The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak” (Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 47).
We know that life has a sacramental dimension and that our sacramental rituals are moments of deeper communion with the God who created us for love.
We human beings need signs and symbols to express what cannot be expressed in words (Thomas Groome, What Makes Us Catholic: the Sacramental Principle 2012).
Catholic Christians tend to associate sacramentality too exclusively with what happens in church, with the celebration of the seven sacraments. … the great sacraments are simply climactic celebrations of the sacramentality of life… (Ibid).
… all the sacraments are symbolised by the ‘ordinary’ of life, by bread, wine, water, oil, touch, words, gestures, and lovemaking in marriage. Each symbolises something profoundly everyday that by the power of God’s Spirit continues the saving mission of Jesus (Ibid).
PRAYER, CONTEMPLATION, CONVERSION
WP 1.1: That the Diocese develops and provides new formal and informal liturgical and prayerful experiences, to help people pray in their daily lives.
WP 1.2: That space and experiences for silence, meditation, contemplation, and mindfulness be promoted and encouraged.
WP 1.3 That formation be given in listening to and discerning the voice of the Spirit.
CELEBRATION OF EUCHARIST
WP 2.1 That we deepen our shared understanding of Christ’s presence in the Assembly, the Presider, Scripture, and the Eucharist and the way in which this animates our Christian service.
WP 2.2 That we acknowledge and encourage the active involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Spirituality and different cultures in liturgy.
HOMILIES AND REFLECTIONS
WP 3.1 That homilists be encouraged to reflect with their parishioners on Sunday readings as they apply to the daily life and culture of their community.
WP 3.2 That lay men and women be trained and formed to provide scriptural reflections in various liturgical settings.
GATHERINGS OTHER THAN MASS
WP 4.1 That meaningful and interactive opportunities be provided for people to gather for fellowship, prayer, and worship.
WP 4.2 That communal prayer opportunities, in times of significance – bushfires, floods, droughts, war, grief, pandemic – connect our faith, social action, and life experiences.
WP 4.3 That the Diocese continues to form, and commission lay people to lead a variety of liturgical experiences.
WP 4.4 That the Diocese explores ways of utilising existing technology for those who are unable to attend Mass.
WP 5.1 That at small community level there be meaningful engagement with families who present their children for the Sacraments of Initiation.
WP 5.2 That there be a concerted effort to help people further their understanding of the Sacraments.
WP 5.3 That the Third Rite of Reconciliation be regularly available.
WP 5.4 That the Diocese commissions capable and suitably trained lay people as lay liturgical leaders in the rites of baptism, marriage, and funerals.