Initial Reflection “Go now, you are sent!”
We wanted to respond generally to the three areas (Accompany one another, Peripheries and Marriage and Families) even though we felt our primary focus was Marriage and Families. Our starting point is that Passionist Family Groups have a call to community, a being for others and so, to go out and to welcome all as our motto is “A Family for All”
Our initial comments could be best described as “fundamental or even existential frustration”. We feel the leadership of the church in many parishes is too limited and we have priests and lay people who have had little or no formation in leadership, building community and encouraging faith-sharing and living the gospel. As parishioners our experience all too often is that there is too little energy for change or new pathways or outreach. There is not enough formation in understanding the social teaching of the church and acting on the key principles otherwise the dignity of the human person would be at the forefront.
We see that there is a too narrow r church focus on “mass” rather than “ecclesia” (gathering) as we see that form is more important than the practical aspects of the ‘call’ of the gospel. Following mantra, rubric and dogma leads to the safe practice of ‘doing’ religion rather than “service” which responds to a call, ‘to go out’ and ‘be sent’. Our communities are seeing people exiting in droves. We asked: ‘Where are the young people?’ We also asked: ‘Where are the middle-aged Church and why are many of them no longer an active part of faith communities?’
We note that in many parishes significant numbers of parishioners are those from cultures where their approach to church is more devotional. Their spirituality differs from that of many other Catholic New Zealander’s. This has created a divide and the insertion of priests from other cultures often frustrates as a result of their poor communication skills (but not their person). We have many people in our churches who are well trained in theology and spiritual who could and would be willing to use their gifts and formation in leadership roles. This continues to contribute to the existential frustration felt by many of us.
Our facilitator, encouraged us to channel this frustration into a positive energy that reflects our desire to make a difference and be part of the solution.
- Encourage leadership to view other church services and understand what could assist in attracting others
- Clerics does not equal leader
- Laity can be and are leaders and could utilise their training/formation from other sectors to enhance church life
- Upskill to lead differently – do we want to bring people to a church which appears ‘sick’?
- Passionist Family Group are church in the fullest sense – community, faith sharing, hospitality service, fun and welcoming!!
- Passionist Family Groups provide the only point of contact that many of our members have with the Church
- If we are to go to the edge/ peripheries we need to be open. Listening , not thinking we have all of the answers; bringing questions, searching together and moving through while utilising the variety of different gifts that are from the Spirit. A call not to be ‘frightened’.
- We need to understand change management and educate on principles of grief and loss – these times of human crisis are opportunities to faith, to life, with heart and hope.
- We want to change focus – reenergise, revitalise and this comes from openness, adaptation, change and supporting each other – believing God is with us.
- Going Forward: Our focus – to keep building –being positive and believing that for 28 years Passionist Family Groups have been showing another way not THE way. We believe it is a process of integration rather than separation.
- We are hopeful and hope filled – we see the continuation of what PFG’s call us to be as community paramount! Creating a sense of belonging, inviting, being hospitable, utilising the sharing and development of gifts, skills and talents, sharing a practical faith where people are not where we would like them to be.
- Passionist Family Groups develop leadership and have done so over their history in NZ. This is where people feel invigorated, share and can even develop others.
- We are not asking for ‘permission’ . We have belief and therefore we sit down and discern our call to go out and develop others to lead in any way we can.
- We know there is a significant group whose approach to church means they would like to keep things as they are. We do not want to cut them or anyone else off but invite them to walk with us, respecting difference and seeing that there are many ways to answer a call. We should be encouraging the development of new models and allowing them to operate side by side.
- The Aims and Goals of Passionist Family Groups reflect the life of the early church as evidenced in Acts Ch 2 and 4 and give us a clear sense of the mission of the early church. This model of church seems to us to be a model that will bring forth fruits for us all on the road. This is what we are, how we are church!! Our community – our Family Groups are our way of being church. Our model – where we are small, open to all and getting to the peripheries!!