The NPPN Executive serves the National Pastoral Planners Network whose purpose is to promote and strengthen a culture of planning for mission and evangelisation within the Catholic Church in Oceania. We engage pastoral research and best practices in church growth to offer experience, knowledge, resources and processes that enable dioceses and parishes to advance the mission of Jesus Christ under the guidance of the Spirit.
Since the launch of our Diocesan Pastoral Plan in Parramatta, our Pastoral Planning Office has been focused on supporting parishes and their leaders in familiarising themselves with the new pastoral plan, talking through the demographics and challenges of each community, and providing guidance in using the implementation guide included within the Faith in Our Future document as a means to grow the faith of their community and share that faith in the wider community. Our work as an office is primarily with parish pastoral councils which are mandatory in our Diocese and also ministry group leaders who are often the driving force of community and outreach at a local level.
While we know as diocesan pastoral planners that the call for consultation is strong when diocesan projects or changes are under consideration or in development, it is surprising to note that parish pastoral councils and local communities can overlook the importance of consulting their own people in developing local parish plans and initiatives. We have sought to emphasise with our parishes that any time a leadership group gets too far ahead of the people, and does not ‘double back’ to collect others along the way, there is a risk that there will be little ownership of even the best made plans and there can be no one to put good ideas into action. Consultation is a way of opening people to reflect on and then assume responsibilities that are already theirs by baptism and faith. We see planning not as an exercise in arriving at a document but building a community through dialogue.
On a diocesan level, we have established a new Family and Life Office with the appointment of its first director, Mr Ben Smith, and our youth office, Catholic Youth Parramatta, has been relaunched with new leadership in the form of Mr James Camden and Sr Rosie Drum MGL as Director and Assistant Director respectively.
We are currently developing a new resource focused on welcome and evangelisation that gives parishes very practical resources to implement the 100 actions contained within the original Faith in Our Future document and this will be distributed in the weeks to come. We have also partnered with Alpha Australia, the Siena Institute (co-founded by Sherry Weddell of Forming Intentional Disciples fame) and Catholic Mission in organising formation opportunities that are framed within our diocesan goals of growing in faith and sharing our faith.
Beyond our own boundaries, we have been privileged to join Bishop Michael McKenna and the clergy and lay leaders of the Diocese of Bathurst to share our learning, missteps and insights on planning accumulated over the past two years. Our commitment to fostering a culture of collaboration includes exchanging ideas with neighbouring dioceses with whom we share mission.
We have also facilitated workshops about pastoral planning with the Melkite Eparchy of Australian and New Zealand as they initiate their own process of planning in parishes and ACU National Campus Ministry in planning for effective evangelisation in a tertiary environment. So the fruits of the Spirit continue to work through our pastoral plan and we have received much wisdom and advice in return from our interactions with others. Our latest resources, videos and updates on progress can be found on our website www.faithinourfuture.org.au
– Daniel Ang