On Wednesday night a small, generous and enthusiastic group of parishioners gathered to begin preparations for our OLV Parish Thanksgiving Programme 2010.
It is five years since we last invited Phil Gourdie (Thanksgiving Programme Director for the Diocese of Christchurch) to lead us through this process. Two years ago when our parish was due for the programme, we were restoring our parish Church. In the midst of the generous response of many parishioners to this restoration we asked that the Thanksgiving Programme be delayed.
At the parish Finance Committee meeting last month it became clear that our collection at Mass each Sunday is no longer covering our parish expenses. Alongside this reality we know that we do not have the resources to meet our parish responsibilities for evangelization.
Before the late 1960’s there was no need for a parish planned-giving programme. While many parishioners lived in great poverty, they knew that if they gave generously to God, God would provide for all their needs. Parents sacrificed everything to ensure that their children were raised in the practice of the Catholic Faith. Sunday mornings were given completely to God. A significant percentage of each household income was generously given to the church and school. Time and talent was given without cost to parish and school maintenance and working bees. People would express their support and gratitude to the Church by gifting up to a weeks salary at the time of a Marriage or Baptism.
The years since have seen significant changes in society. Many of the things that the people of our country once accepted as essential have been disregarded. Much of what citizens then knew to be wrong, have since been embraced as normal and even desirable.
However the Church has remained consistent in presenting the full possibility of human living with God.
Over the past half century the Church has struggled to communicate the beauty of the Catholic faith to people who seek satisfaction in what is new, untested and unreliable. Many people are now tiring of this futile seeking. A significant number of active Catholics have discovered a renewed and adult appreciation of the contemporary reality of life with God, within the Church.
In many young Catholics we see a renewed embrace of the Faith that sustained their grandparents. The World Youth Days are but one vivid example of this renewed movement towards God within the Church.
Here at Our Lady of Victories we are ready to move into a new stage of parish life together. Even in the few years since our last Thanksgiving programme we have welcomed many new parishioners to the parish. These new parishioners bring a wealth of cultural diversity and personal experience to in their lives as faithful Catholics.
As Catholics we carry in the practice and teaching of the Church, the answer to all human needs. This answer is not itself a doctrine or a practice, but a person; Jesus Christ who is God alive with us today.
Citizens of the twenty-first century are not attracted to practices and doctrines. Wise people seek experience, encounter and relationship. People, who take time to reflect on their own experience of seeking and not finding satisfaction in life, are ready to encounter God within their human experience. It is this real and living relationship with the divine that gives meaning to all human life now, and for eternity.
A parish community that takes this new opportunity seriously needs to be supported with practical resources. It is my hope that we are able to employ a qualified and competent young person to work full time within the parish. This person would:
- Make contact with younger parishioners, that is, people aged up to late 20’s early 30’s, providing opportunities for them to gather for sound Faith formation, for prayer, and socially within the parish.
- Continue to build on the sound and lively relationship with children and teachers in our parish school and neighbouring Colleges.
- Work with children preparing to celebrate the Sacraments of Baptism, Reconciliation, Eucharist and Confirmation.
- Liaise with the Catholic Diocesan Youth Team to ensure that the younger parishioners of Our Lady of Victories benefit fully from all diocesan opportunities.
- Co-ordinate possible parish participation in the International World Youth Day event.
- and, as a member of the Parish Team, respond to other needs that arise within the parish
I see this possibility as a hope-filled step forward that will reap benefits in the life of our parish into the future.
However we can only take this step if we have a greatly improved weekly parish income.
There are many other tasks of mission and maintenance that we need to address. Many people have comment that the Bishop Joyce Centre needs to be completely restored. Your increased commitment to the parish planned-giving programme every week will ensure that we can address this need.
Please keep the Parish Thanksgiving Programme in your prayer in these weeks. May we all respond with generous and grateful hearts.