Earlier this year, the Archbishop’s Office for Evangelisation Melbourne hosted a lecture series exploring Christian leadership for the 21st-century context. Topics covered included the challenge of exercising an adult faith in a pluralistic environment, the principles of Christian dialogue (as encouraged by Pope Paul VI in Ecclesiam suam), the need to re-discover our rich biblical heritage, the significance of the Second Vatican Council and why Pope Francis believes that "the sensus fidei is a vital resource for the new evangelisation to which the Church is strongly committed in our time." (Sensus Fidei, In the Life of the Church, 2014, n.2)
Using this resource
A selection of talks are available to watch below and are ideal for personal learning or formation tools for members of parish pastoral councils and leadership teams. Viewers are encouraged to download the accompanying speaker's notes and suggested points for reflection/group discussion.
Exercising an Adult Faith: Wrestle. Challenge. Move.
Presented by Rev. Dr Kevin Lenehan
In week 1 of the lecture series, Rev. Dr Kevin Lenehan explored the changing landscape in Australia and its implications for leaders of communities of faith. Drawing on the writings of Pope Paul VI on Christian Identity in Dialogue (Ecclesiam suam, 1964), he discussed the qualities and competencies needed by faith leaders to express a mature, resilient and Gospel-based belief stance in a pluralistic world.
Suggested points for reflection/discussion
- Leaders in today’s society face high expectations of accountability, transparency, and authenticity. This is particularly so for leaders in faith communities, where religious ideals and Gospel values are at stake. As a leader/leadership group in your community, how do you exercise these qualities of accountability, transparency, and authenticity?
- In his speech at the National Conference of the Italian Church (2015), Pope Francis said that "The situations that we live today, therefore, bring new challenges that for us sometimes are difficult to understand. This, our time, requires living problems as challenges and not obstacles: the Lord is active in the work of the world." Does this resonate with you? How so?
- In this "change of era", Fr Kevin suggests using the VUCA Paradigm (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) as a guide to identifying and responding to events and situation that seem beyond our control. Thinking about the people in your community, can you name situations that would fit into each category? Reflect. Discuss.
- An alternative way of using the VUCA Paradigm is the following: (V) Vision, (U) Understanding, (C) Clarity, (A) Agility. How might you and your leadership team approach this in your community?
- How might you and your community enact Pope Paul VI's words on 'Christian dialogue with the world' from Ecclesiam suam?
Characteristics of dialogue:
- perspicuitas (clarity): “dialogue demands that what is said should be intelligible”
- lenitas (gentleness): reflecting the meekness of Christ
- fiducia (trust): confidence in the both the power of the words, and the good will of both parties to the dialogue
- prudentia (prudence): aware of the psychological and moral circumstances of the hearer.
Encountering Jesus in Our Biblical Heritage.
Presented by Rev. Dr Francis Moloney sdb
Internationally-renowned biblical scholar Rev Dr Francis Moloney points to our biblical heritage as the key to encountering the Risen Jesus: "Ritual, law, doctrine, pomp, ceremony, and ecclesiastical dignity dominate our Catholic lives, despite the prophetic words and witness of Pope Francis. God’s word and Christ’s flesh are daily poured into our ears, but we take no heed. It is to this Word that we turn to reflect upon the encounter with Jesus made possible through our biblical heritage. The resurrection and our belief and experience that Jesus lives enables an encounter with him through all the ages of Christian history."
Suggested points for reflection/discussion
- How does Fr Frank's opening quote from St Jerome resonate with you? Disturb – surprise – shock?
'Pope Benedict XVI, in his post-Synodal exhortation of 2011, Verbum Domini, cited the striking words of Saint Jerome (347-420 CE): "When we approach the Mystery, if a crumb falls to the ground we are troubled. Yet when we are listening to the Word of God, and God’s word and Christ’s flesh are being poured into our ears we pay no heed” (Verbum Domini 56). Some 1600 years later we all know that Jerome’s complaint remains truer than ever.'
- What encounters with Jesus have you had through scripture? Do you have a particular story that speaks deeply to you?
- How do you relate to Jesus’ understanding of himself as a “son of God”? Do you believe you are a daughter/son of God? That God is your “Abba”? How do/can you live this out?
The Sensus Fidei.
Presented by Rev. Dr Max Vodola
Drawing on the history of the church, Fr Max explains the ongoing significance of the Second Vatican Council and why Pope Francis believes that "the sensus fidei is a vital resource for the new evangelisation to which the Church is strongly committed in our time." (Sensus Fidei, In the Life of the Church, 2014, n.2)
Suggested questions for reflection/discussion
- As you ponder the expression Sensus Fidei, the sense of the faithful, what images or words come to your mind that express what it means?
- Fr Max names as one of the Council’s greatest gifts "the recovery of the sacramental character of Baptism". Can you share a word or image to show (explain, illustrate) your personal call as priest, prophet and king?
- What are your thoughts about the principle in Roman law that says "what affects everyone, should be discussed and approved by all"?
- In Evangelli Gaudium (no. 33) Pope Francis invites us to "abandon the complacent attitude that says we have always done it this way…" What attitudes or approaches are most important for us to do this? This is especially timely as we participate in the Plenary Council listening sessions where we are being invited to be part of "…a wide and realistic pastoral discernment”.
- One of the greatest challenges is to enact the Pope’s emphasis on a "theology of the peripheries". Can you brainstorm some groups who fall into our peripheries? How might we reach out and include them in our listening sessions?
- What do you think are some of the social and cultural changes that the Church in Australia is currently facing?
- What ideas or attitudes may we need to let go of if we are to follow Archbishop Coleridge’s assertion that "It can no longer be business as usual”?