Many questions and challenges are being raised as a result of parish small group discussions in Hamilton diocese’s “With Hearts Burning” programme, reflecting on the Emmaus story for our time.
Bishop Stephen Lowe said in launching the second module of the programme titled “Jesus’ Response – A Ministry of Presence” on November 5 in Hamilton that people throughout the diocese had told him of some of the issues raised.
Among the examples he cited was:-
“One woman at Rotorua said to me last night, her son and wife, they have had all sorts of troubles in their marriage with drugs and domestic violence and nothing was working for them.
“They go to Destiny now. And the family has been turned around.”
Bishop Lowe said to the people at the launch at the Gerry Sullivan Centre “We have got to ask – what is Destiny doing?”
Another example the bishop gave was:- “One woman in a group said you know I have been in the parish for three months now and she had young kids and she was getting involved with children’s liturgy and reading, and she says two people have spoken to me. One was the priest.
“It is the whole thing of – we have really got to look at ourselves. And this is what the second module is about, is being present.
“We don’t come to Mass to polish the pews. If we just do that as our ministry, we haven’t done enough.”
A third example cited by the bishop was: “Another woman said to me, Bishop Steve, there’s nine of us in our family and I’m the only one who goes to Mass. My sister has got terminal cancer and she doesn’t want to know anything about God and church and I’m worried sick.”
Bishop Lowe suggested that the woman ask her sister if she could invite the parish priest, a really nice guy, around for a coffee – nothing more.
“It’s a step, but it is a real issue, isn’t it,” Bishop Lowe said.
“Evangelising our families is the hardest of all. I know this personally.”
Bishop Lowe said that there is a question of “how do we get alongside people?”
“Not only how do we get alongside them, but who is going to get alongside them? It has got to be everybody.”
The bishop acknowledged that this would require courage. He asked those present to think back to the time they plucked up the courage to ask someone out on a first date.
“You have got to take the risk. In my case I crashed and burned.” He recounted asking a young woman out to the movies in his youth. “’Oh No’, she said. I was gutted.”
In the literature for the second module of “With Hearts Burning”, Bishop Lowe stated that “going out to people and being with the people is also an essential aspect of the parish community . . . .”
“As Christians and Catholics, we are called to be visibly present to others in our workplaces, clubs, schools and community.”
During his Hamilton talk, Bishop Lowe noted that Catholics in his diocese are engaging with the “With Hearts Burning” programme.
“In Whakatane this morning, they told me they have got 13 groups meeting, reflecting on who is my neighbour [the first module of the programme].”