For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11)
As I write we have just completed the first day of the new six-week Stage 3 Restrictions. For places of worship this means we are unable to open our Churches to either the public or our own parishioners. It means that gatherings for weddings are restricted to 5 people and funerals to 10. These are particularly tough times for those who have lost a loved one and cannot surround themselves with family and friends as they usually would. Having lost my own father in April this year I am understanding of the pain that this can bring. For other families in our parish this time has brought financial distress and hardship as businesses, most notably in the hospitality and entertainment industry, but in many others too, has slowed or come to a standstill. I am aware that the COVID-19 experience brings with it a unique story for every one of our families in our parishes and schools. It calls for our parishes and schools to be places of compassion and understanding.
I am grateful to the Principals and school staff at Our Lady of Good Counsel, Deepdene, Our Holy Redeemer, Surrey Hills and Our Lady’s, Wattle Park for the incredible job they have done this year in managing a changing environment for education. The dedication to our students and their families has been outstanding. I am likewise grateful to our parish staff and the many volunteer ministers and group members who have assisted in keeping our parishes running and our parishioners connected.
Along with the stresses and strains of living through a pandemic there have also been many blessings and positive experiences. Many people have shared their experience of an enforced slowing down from a frenetic pace of life; the opportunity to spend time with their partners and children; the opportunity to take time over a meal; to rest, to play, to reflect, and to reassess life’s priorities. There has been time to appreciate the small things of life.
Our parish is not locking down from its commitment to be there for all our parishioners in the best way that we can. In the coming six weeks and beyond we will:
- Provide spiritual connection
- Continue to make available an online Mass each Sunday
- Make available a weekly Spending Time with the Word for families and for those with school aged children Reflecting on the Gospel with Children resource to use at home for prayer, reflection and discussion
- Provide an inspirational Prayer of the Week direct to your In Box.
- Increase communication opportunities
- Begin a new Facebook Group to which all parishioners and friends of our parish will be invited to join in order to share and discuss issues of faith and life
- Open up our weekly news posts for comment and dialogue.
- Deliver Pastoral care
- Reactivate our telephone ministry by making contact with parishioners, particularly those who are alone or suffering
- Continue to conduct online prayer and friendship connections with those in aged care facilities
- Ensure our priests are available for pastoral care in homes and aged care facilities.
- Promote Outreach opportunities
- We will continue to promote and support the St Vincent de Paul Winter appeal. The Conferences from our three parishes are actively working to support those in need at the moment
- Promote and support the Brigidine Asylum Seeker Project and the Australian Asylum Seeker Resources Centre
- Provide support and funding to CatholicCare for the housing needs of asylum seekers.
- Continue to explore adult learning
- In August we will conduct a three part Social Justice series on Social Justice Response in a COVID environment.
There may be other things that you are involved in or would like to share with our parish. We would love to hear from you.
In the meantime, my prayers and thoughts are with each of you as we live through one of the most challenging times of this generation. We have chosen a piece of Scripture to guide us through this time. It is taken from the prophet Jeremiah: For I know the plans I have for you, declared the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. To give you a future and a hope.
Let’s continue to pray and support one another so that the proclamation of Jeremiah becomes a reality for all in our world.
With best wishes,