Over the past few weeks the Archdiocese of Melbourne has planted a seed. The Archbishop invited the priests of the parishes in the diocese and, separately, a representative from each of these parishes, to a meeting to present a new vision for the local Church (see the Pentecost letter from Archbishop Peter Comensoli). The chair of each parish council – Deepdene and Balwyn (Julie Douglas), Camberwell (Vince Curatore) and Surrey Hills Wattle Park (Peter Collery) attended the ‘lay leaders gathering’ on behalf of our parishes.
The Archdiocese recognises the current decline in Mass attendance and of those identifying as Catholic, and is looking for a renewed missionary purpose in proclamation, worship, fellowship and service. The Archdiocese believes that by grouping parishes into a ‘family of communities’ whilst maintaining, respecting and celebrating local parish identity, we may be able to renew ourselves into a Missionary Church of the future. Amalgamations and closures of parishes are not being considered at this time, with local governance of parishes a matter for parishes at the local level.
At Camberwell Balwyn Deepdene and Surrey Hills Wattle Park we are fortunate to have been thinking about this big picture for some time, as our own parish partnerships have developed over the last ten years.
The Archdiocese recognised the experience of our parishes and invited our highly respected Senior Pastoral Associate, Tricia Norman, to address the lay leaders gathering about the experience our parishes have had in our partnership journey.
Our councils are working together in the hope of creating a renewed vibrant and faith-filled community for our three parishes. We worked with the parish priests and staff and invited all our parish members to participate in a survey last year, receiving over 500 responses. Thank you to all who participated. Our survey feedback is available here and continues to inform our future planning. We want to continue to listen to you and create the parishes of the future right here. The incorporation of lay leadership in the new model is critical for the church to continue, but there are also many other areas that the church needs to look at to survive in this day and age.
The Archdiocese is aware of the contents of the submissions that have been made by parishes to the Plenary Council but it sees the timeline for the outcomes from the Plenary Council as being well into the future. As the proposed re-organisation of our Parishes is considered a local rather than a national matter, the Melbourne Archdiocese wants to move towards the new model of a Missionary Church more promptly. The reframing timeline being proposed is to identify the various mission areas of the Archdiocese within the next 12 months, reflect on these and move to a stage of establishment of missions over the next 3 to 5 years.
The Archdiocese has asked that priests and lay leaders consider which parishes would be appropriate to form local missions, and what resources – ministerially, materially and spiritually – we would need to enable us to develop strategies for greater cooperation, with the aim of establishing more viable, vibrant and sustainable entities ‘fit for mission’ and better equipped to provide quality sacramental and liturgical life and promote the good news, mission and outreach of our faith.
We will have a further opportunity to give feedback to the Archdiocese at a regional meeting to be held in July. In the meantime, the full text of Archbishop Comensoli’s address to Priests and Lay Leaders is available here. You can also access a list of Frequently Asked Questions and provide your own feedback to the Archdiocesan Proclaim office.
You are invited to join the conversations too! Your comments and reflections are welcome. You may also like to provide further reflection and feedback as the new mission direction of the Archdiocese takes shape in our own communities. We have an online feedback form where you can pass on your own thoughts and ideas to our parish leaders.
We continue to hope and pray for a faith-filled viable and vital future for our church.
Camberwell Parish Council
Deepdene and Balwyn Parish Council
Surrey Hills Wattle Park Park Council