Parish Pastoral Council members from across the Archdiocese have recently gathered for a Parish Renewal program, which focussed on prayer, discernment and developing parish pastoral plans.
Four meetings were held to cater for each region – the southern region at the Canning Vale and Spearwood parishes, the northern region at Whitford Parish and the eastern region at Greenmount Parish.
Attending the sessions was Perth Auxiliary Bishop Don Sproxton, who at the start of each session thanked those present for their on-going participation and willingness to learn and grow in their vital role as effective Parish Pastoral Council members.
The second aspect of the meeting focussed on the importance of prayer and discernment within the context of Parish Pastoral Councils.
Bishop Don explained that “prayer and discernment are the foundation and guide that ensure the decision making in the life of our parishes is centred on the person of Jesus.”
“They align us with Gospel values and the teachings of the Church. Prayer and discernment allow us to understand more fully how as parishes, and indeed as an archdiocese, we can walk faithfully with our Lord.”
Parish Renewal team member, Dr Carmel Suart, expressed it was most heartening to see many of the Parish Pastoral Council members who attended the initial sessions return to participate once again, in addition to the new members from several parishes
During the meetings, Dr Suart echoed Bishop Don’s sentiments, who spoke about the power of prayer and relying on the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
“Prayer can take many forms, as there is no one way to pray, Dr Suart said.
“Effective Parish Pastoral Council meetings begin and end with prayer and when necessary, turn to prayer during the meeting, where matters of very serious consequence for the parish are to be considered or where contentious matters have introduced some tension.
“In our meetings, the more difficult the moment, the more we need the guidance of the Holy Spirit,” she added.
Bishop Don added that “discernment has its foundation in prayer and is a journey calling on the Holy Spirit to lead and give direction. It is how the Spirit shows the Church and its members what God wants them to do and be.”
“Discernment is especially important to the role of the Parish Pastoral Councils as it helps to distinguish or sort out what is truly of God. It not only helps us to become aware of the actions that draw us to God, but also allows us to discern the actions that draw us away from God.”
Archdiocese Parish Renewal Coordinator, Father Nino Vinciguerra, suggested a process of discernment highlighted the importance of listening with the heart and in doing so allows us to be open to the Spirit and to discern the will of God for the parish community.
“In listening with the heart, Parish Pastoral Council members become more open to the promptings of the Spirit to respond respectfully and with compassion to the needs of the community.”
The morning session of the program set the context for the afternoon.
Parish Pastoral Council members, with the guidance of Strategy Implementation and Support Manager, Renay Grech and Field Officer for the Parish Renewal Team Richard Win Pe, leading those present through the elements to consider when developing a Mission Statement and a Vision Statement.
Dr Suart told The Record, a robust, healthy discussion by participants took place in distinguishing the main elements between the two sessions.
The leaders unpacked the role of data collection and outlined some data collection tools which may be useful in informing the direction of the vision for the parish.
Parish Pastoral Council members were then asked to go back to their parishes and make a start on developing a pastoral plan, keeping in mind the principles that had been discussed.
This will be supported by follow up visits for those parishes that need further support by Richard Win Pe.
At the end of the session, Fr Vinciguerra concluded the day saying, part one of this program was centred on the benefits of creating a Parish Pastoral Plan.
“Part two is about making a start, no matter how humble, just make a start.”