Pastoral Planning Officer

“on the bridge”

In this weekend’s Gospel, Jesus, may be speaking to each one of us when He says, “ The Kingdom of God will be taken away from you…and He adds that “ God’s kingdom will be given to a people that produces the fruits of the Kingdom.” As people of faith, are we producing” the fruits of the kingdom?”

In the next few years you will begin to hear more about “pastoral planning in the Diocese of Parramatta.” Bishop Anthony Fisher has created a new ministry to identify some of the emerging trends in the way we “do Church today.”Daniel Ang has been appointed the Pastoral Planning Officer for the Diocese and I the Episcopal Vicar for Pastoral Planning and Evangelisation. Daniel has recently established an office, alongside mine at Toongabbie, to head up the task of pastoral planning. Together, we will work across the Diocese going out to the many parishes, specialized ministries, schools and agencies.  Over the next two weekends, at our weekend Masses, Daniel will speak to you briefly about his hopes in the role and also it is a chance to welcome him into our parish community in which he will be planning many things to serve our Diocese into the future
•     Parramatta Diocese is Australia’s Catholic heartland: 1 in 3 of those living here are Catholic (319,228 out of 957,684 in the 2006 census). This is a higher proportion than the national average of 25.8%.
•    Western Sydney is the epicenter of immigration in Australia. The top four birthplaces of all Catholics born overseas in the Diocese were: the Philippines, Lebanon, Malta and Italy. The top four birthplaces of the most recent arrivals have been the Middle East, North Africa, North America, Iraq and India. Since 2006, a significant Sudanese presence has settled in the Diocese
•    The Diocese is youthful by Australian standards: in 2006, 24% were aged under 14, while 10% were aged over 65. Our median age is 33. The Diocese has over 80 youth groups operating within and beyond parish boundaries.
•    Trends affecting our people: the growth of a secularizing culture: in 2006, 116,000 stated on the census they had “no religion”; there are trends to erase Christian heritage from laws, institutions and culture. 5 out of 6 Catholics do not attend Mass regularly.
•    Families are crucial for the transmission of life, faith, values, and vocations. At the last census, we had 111,079 two-parent Catholic families (at least one Catholic) and 14,276 single-parent families (with parent Catholic). Many families are under financial or emotional stress, dysfunctional or ‘broken’ which plays out in various negative ways.
•    The structure of our Diocese: includes 49 parishes, 7 deaneries (clusters of 6-7 local parishes ), 16 ethnic chaplaincies, 56 Catholic primary schools, 26 Catholic high schools, 60 active incardinated and religious priests with parish appointments, 10 deacons, 8 seminarians, 232 women religious or in secular institutes, 3500 CEO school teachers and staff, 986 SRE Catechists, 13 Pastoral Associates, Catholic Care, St. Vincent de Paul, Diocesan youth Apostolate, thousands of Parish Councillors, Parish Secretaries, acolytes, extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, Sacramental Co-ordinators, and many more numerous ministries.
    Our clergy: the average ratio of priests (in parishes) to faithful is 1: 4372. This ratio is increasing as priests decline and populations increase. In Toongabbie the ratio is 1: 6500 as we have gone from a 2-priest parish to a 1-priest parish.
•    Population growth: Western Sydney is slated to double in population before our Diocese turns “50” in 2036.
This is the context in which Daniel, myself, and all of us in parishes, schools, and ministries are being called to mission. The prime mission directive is not about statistics or supply and demand, but, rather, the ongoing mission of Christ in the world. How will we, as the Church in Parramatta further that mission in the next 25 years? Diversity extends beyond ethnicity to also include family structures, life styles, regional migration, aging of clergy and parishioners. We, as parishes, are called on to develop programs and ministries to serve this diverse modern landscape. Pope Benedict XVI speaks of the “ co-responsibility of the entire parish” noting that “the parish priest is no longer the only one to animate everything.”

Fr. Paul