With faith, hope and charity, the parishioners of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish were inspired to undertake an extraordinary venture. Through strategic planning and determination what had begun as an impossible dream became a reality.
Together, they undertook the massive task of fund raising, building and pioneering a new Catholic parish in Thurgoona, New South Wales. This beautiful complex is now a sign of God's blessing on those who dare to accept St James' challenge, 'Show me your faith apart from your works and I, by my works, will show you my faith.'
The decision to hand on the blessings received gave birth of the Flyaway to Heaven project in aid of the people of East Timor, a project which challenged faith and tested the virtue of charity. Once again, it was a huge undertaking by a dedicated group of people who committed themselves against the odds.
Message of charity
Casting its nets, the project gathered 28 pilots and supporters under its wings. With fourteen aircraft, these courageous people flew into the wind for the poor.
In Adelaide, the team stayed at the Dernacourt parish where Sunday evening Mass was concelebrated with the parish priest, Fr Leo Mifsud, who introduced the Fly Away to Heaven team to the people. It was encouraging to receive a letter of welcome from the Archdiocese of Adelaide.
In Perth, the team was transported by bus to the Schoenstatt Shrine in Mt Richon. Sister M. Lisette Dreis, with her vitality and zeal, welcomed the team to the Shrine of Our Lady of Schoenstatt. This Chapel is a meeting place for Marian devotions under the spiritual direction of the Schoenstatt community.
Many other places were visited where people showed the Australian spirit of generous hospitality.
The Flyaway to Heaven project had begun by 'flying out on a wing of a prayer,' and returned home knowing that the message of charity had been spread around the nation (over $225,000 was raised for the poor and Australians were challenged to become ambassadors of love).
In the words of an East Timorese nun, 'Life is much more than success; it is transformation in the Holy Spirit, which gives meaning to life. First we transform ourselves, then we transform others. The appeal for the poor is like 'flying into the wind'.
Clearly, however, the greatest challenges today are the winds of indifference and unbelief. After visiting and staying with people at over 50 places around the continent, it became clear that there is a grave need of a 'new evangelisation', an authentic transformation in the Holy Spirit.
There are many positive aspects to Australian culture. Australia is a blessed and 'lucky' country. However, there are some challenges. It seems that many Christians isolate their faith to one hour a week on a Sunday, or perhaps only the occasional Sunday. Sunday religious practice is tolerated, even adhered to, but a Catholic Christian could succumb to the cultural expectation of being socially indistinguishable.
Many are swept along with the pace of secularism with little time invested in a relationship with God. The liberal, secular agenda denies any real distinction between a life of faith and one that excludes God. In practice, this becomes a pressure to maintain Christian anonymity or disguise. The price of non-conformism is social discomfort, even exclusion. Unwilling to pay the price, many lapse from faith altogether and become 'churchless'.
When Christians align themselves with secular culture, the Gospel becomes irrelevant. Like a lonely outcrop, the Church seems to stand alone with its faithful remnant: those who are prepared to be in the world but not of the world. The impact on marriage and family, the fundamental cell of society, tells the whole story.
Marriage and family breakdown have almost become the norm. Statistically, the most vulnerable place to be in Australia is in a mother's womb. Given such foundations for life, maturity becomes rare. Selfishness prevails over self-giving love.
In the sacrament of Marriage, Christian parents receive sacramental grace to preserve and foster the presence of the Holy Spirit between them. This presence is the treasure of the divine gift of charity. The union of the moral and sacramental life in the family, experienced as an integrated whole, prepares it to reach out in love for the poor and to be an effective instrument of the new evangelisation.
The members of the Confraternity of Christ the Priest in Australia would like to offer you, your family and friends a spiritual association in their work as Missionaries of the New Evangelisation.
The new evangelisation requires lay associates who are zealous pray-ers and missionaries of love, firstly, in their families and in the sanctuary of their home, then, further abroad. Sacerdotist Associates benefit from the infinite graces of frequent Masses offered for their intentions by the priests of the Confraternity of Christ the Priest.
As with Angel Wings, we welcome you aboard this universal approach to the new evangelisation. Faithful to the Holy Father and the Magisterium, with Jesus Christ the Eternal High Priest and under the banner and protection of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, we will become, in the words of Mother Theresa, 'Something beautiful for God.'
Fr John Fowles CCS is parish priest and Fr Joel Wallace CCS assistant priest of Immaculate Heart of Mary parish, Albury-Thurgoona, in the Wagga Wagga Diocese: (02) 6043 2222, email: frfowlesccs_at_christthepriest.com