By Josh Low
In what has been described as ground breaking by Auxiliary Bishop Don Sproxton, four neighbouring parishes from the Archdiocese of Perth united for a Joint Parish Retreat Day to chart a course into the future for their communities.
Hosted by Mt Lawley Parish and Parish Priest Fr Tim Deeter at St Paul’s Primary School on 10 March, 70 people from the parishes of Mt Lawley, Highgate, Joondanna and the Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross were in attendance.
With the keynote address delivered by Bishop Sproxton, the event was part of an initiative in line with the Archdiocesan Plan for Strengthening and Revitalising Parishes.
In his address to those present, Bishop Sproxton said the retreat day was an important way of inspiring and encouraging one another and a way in which new ideas could be shared with other communities.
“A day like this is a great opportunity for us to look at the ways in which we can assist one another, what sort of pastoral work is a challenge for each of us and what work we could then do together,” he said.
He said the hope was for the day to be replicated in the future across the Archdiocese with the aim of building a stronger Catholic presence in the various regions.
“These hubs of parishes will hopefully provide a model for other parishes.
“We hope they will be able to see that through the outcomes of this meeting and from the sharing of experiences, it might open up some possibilities in other areas so other hubs can be formed.
“In this way, opportunities will arise for them to continue working together to create a more vibrant community in each parish and as a whole in that region therefore, a stronger Catholic presence through the various ministries they work together on,” Bishop Sproxton said.
Small group discussions during the day allowed for participants to brainstorm ideas on various topics, such as what parishioners can give to their parishes and the practical means of doing so, as well as addressing the questions of “What do I need from God?” and “How can my parish help with this?”.
Each small group’s findings were then taken to a larger open discussion, facilitated by Mt Lawley Parish Priest Fr Tim Deeter and Leader of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross Mgr Harry Entwistle.
Participant Antoinette Torre said it is important for parishes to have the frameworks in place, to open up possibilities for Christ to move in people’s hearts.
“We reflected on the times in our lives; that youth group, that choir, that one homily which gave us the opportunity to grow and develop in our faith.
“So I think if we can tap into that moment of our own inspiration, we can then explore how to provide a framework for those around us in the parish, and that could be a really positive thing,” she said.
“I think it’s important that as parishes we have that framework available to our children, to the youth, young couples and older groups; so that with it, even if our group sizes wax and wane, God has the opportunity to reach out to touch the heart of each individual when the time is right.”
Participant Siobhan Page said being involved in a vibrant community and seeing a living faith in others engaged and interested in Catholicism was something that touched her on her own journey of faith.
“That’s why I think an event like this where there is a larger Catholic network coming together to inspire each other and share ideas can be very powerful,” she added.
Having come to the retreat day with her husband as new parishioners of Mt Lawley Parish, Siobhan explained that they went without many expectations, but a desire to deepen their involvement with the parish.
“The best thing was meeting the people that I see often at Mass but don’t know personally.
“I believe it is so important to have personal relationships with other Catholics and that parishes can only benefit by having the people connect with and know each other, know that they want the same things like faith formation and support in living out the faith for their parishes, the wider Church, their family and themselves.
“With those connections, forged through a day of prayer and reflection, good things will surely follow!” she concluded.
From pages 12 and 13 of Issue 13: ‘God, Science, Church’ of The Record Magazine