MASS CELEBRATED BY ARCHBISHOP DENIS HART AT ALL SAINTS’ CHURCH FITZROY FOR THE PRESENTATION OF PASTORAL ASSOCIATE CERTIFICATES ON WEDNESDAY 18 NOVEMBER 2009 AT 6PM.
INTRODUCTIONMy dear Sisters and Brothers,
Today we come humbly into the presence of our God to encounter the wonders of his mercy and to recognise the studies undertaken by some Pastoral Associates to fit them better for the mission that they undertake in building up the kingdom of God, together with the priests and people of our parishes.
So that we may humbly allow the power of Christ to shine through us, let us call to mind our sins that we will be transformed by the grace of Christ.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today we are united in God’s church acknowledging one Lord, one faith, and our common baptism. Along with those whom he calls by ordination other lay people are called to co-operate in the Church’s mission and to bring their gifts as lay people to build up the Church of God.
Back in 1975 Pope Paul VI asked the question of how the people of today are to be brought to encounter the Gospel. I am deeply aware of the many ways in which Pastoral Associates exercise the mission of presenting the attractiveness of the Gospel to so many other people; by leadership of parish groups, teaching and organising, personal counselling, ministering to people in suffering and distress and bereavement, and in the myriad of ways in which they build up the life of the parish.
Pastoral Associates bear witness to the great truth proclaimed by Paul VI and John Paul II that the top priority of the Church is presenting the attractiveness of the Gospel to the people of our time. John Paul II even described it as the most important part of the Church’s mission in our time and went on to remind us of six things.
1. The New Evangelisation comes from a deep personal encounter with Christ.
2. It is the responsibility of the entire people of God.
3. It is not just for the foreign missions.
4. It is directed to individuals and whole cultures.
5. It is not limited to the presentation of the basic Gospel message.
6. It calls for a missionary spirituality.
Fundamental to all this is a personal encounter with Christ. Evangelisation is a clear proclamation that in Jesus Christ salvation is offered to all people as a gift of God’s grace and mercy. It is not merely a matter of passing on doctrine, but rather of a personal and profound meeting with the Saviour.
He stresses the value of what Pastoral Associates are doing when he says: “The mission to the nations is carried out in a variety of ways and is the task of all the Christian faithful.”
Many of us would know that it is not merely teaching Christ to those who have never known him, or building up communities which are already strong, but it involves re-engaging those who have walked away from the Church, whether as adolescents or adults, and seeking to present the Gospel to them in a way which is relevant to their lives.
All of this would only be possible if each of us has a personal encounter with Christ and allows him to touch and transform us, to fill us with enthusiasm from knowing that the Gospel is Good News for us, so our desire to share it is so strong that we would invite other Christians to respond with generosity and holiness.
What I would encourage from the generosity of Pastoral Associates is a regular faithfulness to prayer and an enthusiasm and hope in the Gospel. I have deep gratitude for the multitude of tasks which you perform to support our priests and people. In many ways you are the lynchpin engaging all in our parishes to work together to know and love Jesus Christ, to witness to him and to present in ever new and attractive ways the call that he gives.
Thank you for your constant generosity and for all that you are doing to build up the Church. Your living of the baptismal vocation and of the missionary challenge of the Gospel is something for which I admire and thank you.
+ Denis J. HartARCHBISHOP OF MELBOURNE.