Cardinal George Pell has reviewed the draft Pastoral Plan for the Archdiocese of Sydney (see July AD2000) and suggested a number of small alterations. The final version of the Plan was presented to clergy on 17 September and is to be implemented by Cardinal Pell in 2008.
Bishop Julian Porteous, who has overseen the fine-tuning of the Plan through to its finalisation, says that it 'recognises that evangelisation must be the first priority of the Archdiocese of Sydney'.
Overall the Plan 'is aimed at 'strengthening Catholic life' with a positive thrust' as it seeks 'to strengthen the spiritual, pastoral and welfare work of the Archdiocese.'
The Plan focuses especially on parish life, and the need to strengthen catechesis associated with the sacraments and encourage parishes to be more 'missionary'. Parishes, Bishop Porteous emphasises, 'cannot just continue to provide basic services without serious efforts to strengthen faith, especially among those who have been non-practising, yet still seek the sacraments.'
Marriage and family
Here, the nurturing and strengthening of marriage and family is a key priority if the faith is to be revived in parishes.
To this end, the Archdiocesan Marriage and Family Office, in consultation with the Catholic Education Office, is to develop a program of marriage preparation for senior secondary students and review all marriage preparation programs to ensure their clarity of Church teaching by December 2008.
In regard to education, Bishop Porteous refers to the recent pastoral letter of the bishops of NSW and the ACT (Catholic Schools at a Crossroads, see September AD2000) as expressing 'a concern that while Catholic education has been strongly sought after, the results in terms of young people embracing their Catholic faith are very poor.'
The Sydney Plan notes that the bishops in their pastoral letter 'encourage all those involved to dedicate themselves to ensuring that our schools 'are truly Catholic in their identity and life'; that they be 'centres of the new evangelisation', and 'enable our students to achieve high levels of Catholic religious literacy and practice'.'
The Plan, says Bishop Porteous, 'seeks to strengthen the Catholicity of our schools' while 'Catholic tertiary education is also asked to examine the Catholicity of their presentation of the faith'. The implementation of the Plan, he adds, 'will provide an opportunity to examine how our Catholic tertiary institutions can be more effective in this area.'
The Australian Catholic University is by far the largest provider of trained Catholic teachers, hence its role is pivotal in any renewal of Catholic education. Its theology and religion curriculum courses will need close monitoring in light of deficiencies identified in recent years.
The final draft of the Plan includes the following requirements for Catholic education as a means of effecting renewal:
* Catholic institutions engaged in education will review every five years their effectiveness in achieving the mission of proclaiming the Catholic faith.
* Catholic educational institutions are to ensure that the Magisterial teaching of the Church is faithfully transmitted.
* Catholic educational institutions are to express in their mission statements a commitment to the magisterial teaching of the Church by March 2009.
* Lecturers at Catholic tertiary institutes who teach on matters of faith and morals should meet the requirements of Canon Law and the Australian requirements of the document, Ex corde ecclesiae.
* At the beginning of their term of office Directors in the Catholic Education Office, School Principals, Assistant Principals and Religious Education Co-ordinators will make a Statement of Commitment as an expression of their ecclesial obligations.
* Catholic Education has to develop in those they teach a clear sense of the contribution they can make to society by living and being witnesses to their faith.
The question of the Catholic identity of all social welfare activities has also been a key issue considered in the Plan with all agencies to be asked to examine the clarity of their Catholic identity and their expression of this identity in their works.
The finalised Plan includes reference to the role of overseas clergy, with programs in place to make them welcome and assist them to settle into the archdiocese.
The need for authentic Liturgy is another area of priority with provision for 'ongoing formation on Church teaching in relation to the celebration of the Mass and Sacraments' and 'regular workshops for clergy, liturgical ministers, teachers and catechists to inform them of recent liturgical documents'.
Parish Priests are 'to encourage those involved in sacramental programmes and the RCIA to undertake courses in formation provided by Archdiocesan agencies.'
Among the processes listed for 'effective implementation' the Plan calls for Cardinal Pell 'to designate an auxiliary bishop, with professional help, to oversee and monitor the implementation of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan in parishes and agencies'. This will be based on an implementation booklet that includes a time line for priorities in the coming year to be produced annually.
Overall, no stone is left unturned in the Plan's comprehensive coverage of Catholic life in the archdiocese.