The sabbatical weeks gave me good opportunity for personal reflection. As a priest, this reflection is always about the priestly ministry which God has entrusted to me, and which is an organic part of my life. It is a privilege for me to serve Our Lady of Victories as Parish Priest. In my time away I thought a lot about our life together at Our Lady of Victories. There are many blessings. God is working powerfully among us.
These weeks of the Thanksgiving Programme give us good opportunity to give thanks to God for the many gifts He has given us. The diversity and commitment of so many parishioners at Mass every Sunday is a powerful witness to the presence and action of God in this place.
As we give thanks to God, we are also aware that a significant number of our friends and family no longer worship with us. Too many of our children and grandchildren, nephews and nieces who were baptised, raised and educated as Catholics, have little (if any) contact with the Church in their adult lives. This is a tragedy that rightly concerns us deeply.
It is all too easy to leave the responsibility solely with them. However as a parish community we can do much more to present the lively beauty of our Faith in a way that is inviting and attractive to them. All too often we reduce the Catholic Faith to moral living, legal practice and doctrinal orthodoxy. Life as a Catholic is primarily a living encounter with the person of Jesus Christ who is God. This vibrant relationship of love transforms every aspect of human life. The fruit of this living relationship is sound moral living reflecting the intention of the Creator. In such a life, the law of God is fulfilled and life is fully lived.
If the Catholic Faith is to survive in our parish, we who worship here every Sunday, need to give fully of our time, our talent, and our treasure. For two thousand years the Catholic Faith has thrived only where Catholics are generous in these ways. Such an atmosphere of lived generosity is fertile ground for divine miracles. We will witness these miracles in our own lives and in the lives of those we love.
The first call on our time is weekly participation in the Sunday Mass. Without the Mass we might be able to cope or survive, but we cannot live. During each week our life as Catholic people takes time: we delay when we are busy to spend time with the needy neighbour or workmate. We get up to the sick or hungry child at night. We respond with the same generosity when our parish calls for help.
Our parish community is united not by our common interests or natural personal attractions of friendship. Instead we are a wonderfully diverse group drawn together by our knowledge of our need for God. Each of us brings gifts and talents to this local gathering of God’s family. We offer our talents generously for the up-building of the parish and for the mission of the Church in this place.
Like every family, our parish community has great potential. We have the ultimate message of hope to share with family, friends, neighbours, workmates, children and grandchildren. But like most families we are limited in our resources. In recent months our weekly collection has barely covered our basic parish expenses. There are around 1000 income earning adults in our parish. The minimum hourly wage is $12.75. Given that for ten years now we have suggested ‘one hours wage’ as the starting point for contribution to the parish, our weekly collection should be in the vicinity of $12.000. In recent years it has been $3000. Let us each renew our giving pledge, enabling our basic parish expenses to be covered, and opening possibilities for outreach and mission by the parish to those we love, and those to whom God sends us.
It is essential that we embrace the opportunity that we have in these weeks. Many parish communities around the world have simply faded from existence. This must not happen to us. What is required of us is a generosity that exceeds our comfort level. It is such a ‘sacrificial’ generosity that imitates Jesus who called us to give all in His service and in love of one another.
As we are grateful to those who nurtured seeds of Faith in us, so too will future generations of Catholics be grateful to us for our generous response to the call of Jesus.
And we know that God will abundantly reward those who respond generously to His call.
Sincerely, in Christ,
Fr. John C. O’Connor
Our Lady of Victories Parish