Earlier this week, I, along with Mrs Flower and Mr Randazzo, enjoyed the opportunity to join with all of the Principals and our CEWA Leadership for the full day Leaders’ Forum at the Perth Convention Centre. This event has been missing in this form for a few years now due to COVID so it was particularly refreshing and inspiring to engage with others around the emerging challenges facing Catholic Education as well as to celebrate the life-giving successes happening in our schools.
There was much to take back to our communities. Having listened to Archbishop Timothy Costelloe relay his interpretation of Pope Francis’ latest message and publication “Go Forth – Toward a Community of Missionary Discipleship” and various eminent guest presenters, the day was a welcome reflection, within the rampant busyness of our day to day. It was also, again, very affirming of the great work that we do in our special community at Chisholm and the many blessings we really do enjoy here.
One of the highlights around the main theme of Go Forth centred on Accompaniment and this particular part of Pope Francis’ message resonated strongly. I would like to share the following commentary regarding this message and its underlining importance.
Many Christians suffer in ways that leave them feeling lost and unsure of God’s love. They suffer doubt about the faith and disappointment with those who profess it. They suffer pain and guilt as a result of experiences they have had and mistakes they have made. They suffer uncertainty about their lives and confusion about God’s will. How well is the church ministering to those who walk through these dark valleys? How well is it communicating God’s constant love and acceptance? In far too many cases, unfortunately, either not well enough or not well at all.
Numerous Christians recount experiences of pastoral ministry that are either unhelpful or a source of added suffering in their own right. Those who find themselves at some distance from a conventionally faithful Christian life especially suffer criticism and misunderstanding and, in the worst cases, outright exclusion and condemnation. The spiritually wounded who look to the church for comfort and support too often are either left untreated or wounded further. The missionary renewal of the church demands attention to these pastoral failings, for they are ultimately failings of faithful witness and proclamation.
Pope Francis, consequently, calls upon all Christians, and especially pastoral workers, to learn to see God’s presence in the lives of those with serious doubts, sins, struggles, or differences with the church. Those who suffer need to be accompanied in their trials and helped to grow closer to God without ever having their dignity denied or their freedom usurped. This means that those who minister need to think and act and especially speak with greater tenderness and mercy. It also means fostering within the church a wider culture of welcome so that all people can find within it a home and a help for their hurt. Only in this way will the church demonstrate to the world that the gospel is truly good news for everyone.
Mr John Bormolini