This Wednesday there will be no parish Mass because Archbishop Peter has asked all clergy to attend a meeting. I think this meeting will be look at how we organise the diocese into parishes. That something needs to happen is obvious even on a local front. Fr Joe Caddy already decided that we should partner with St Colman’s, and we only have to look around at our neighbours to see that cannot be the end.
As you would be aware, with fewer people attending Mass, this leads to a smaller number of priests. Moreover, the geographic distribution of Catholics in Melbourne has changed dramatically. The number of parishes in our area no longer reflects the number of Catholics, let alone the number of people attending Mass, especially when compared to some of the newer parishes with huge numbers of parishioners. Fr Joe has been wrestling with these issues – where the greatest need is and how to plan for the future – since he took over the role.
There clearly needs to be a big reorganisation of parishes across the whole diocese. As I said earlier, most of you would be aware that this has been coming for thirty years. You might also be aware that this process has already started in many parts of Melbourne; for example, six parishes to the south of us that have become the Bayside Catholic Mission, parishes around Brunswick and Moreland have also come together; same with parishes around Camberwell, Deepdene, Balwyn and Surrey Hills. Fr Joe is leading a larger discussion about what this could look like diocese-wide by highlighting some of the social realities of Melbourne. I think the clergy are going to be briefed on this on Wednesday. I will of course keep you updated.
In relation to those two flocks of Jesus, this is a necessary development so that parishes have a critical mass of numbers, both in terms of a lively liturgy but also to give rise to evangelical and social outreach projects. As always, it is about worship and mission. This is something we as the parishes of St Mary’s and St Colman’s should pray and think about with our neighbouring parishes.
That said, I am really excited about what we can do. There are so many opportunities to become even more welcoming and even more attentive to the needs of our neighbours. Our predecessors in these parishes worked hard to give us many possibilities. The beautiful churches, the wonderful facilities, and most importantly, the love of Christ and commitment to serving him in our brothers and sisters. Our job is to build on these foundations, so we can really show the face of Christ to our neighbours.
Some parishioners have already approached me with ideas. Our two schools have some big projects going on. Various priests in our area are talking about ways parishes can cooperate. Our finance committee is also looking at things we can do closer to home.
But all of this is my way of saying, I promise to keep everyone updated with what I know. This is an exciting time to be a catholic. We face many challenges, but seen with Easter eyes, these are all opportunities to witness to our faith and give life to our neighbours. Our task remains the same: to know the love of God in Jesus Christ and to give him to those we encounter.