St Mary’s parish, Northcote, Auckland is endeavouring to respond to the pastoral and spiritual needs of the community.Parish priest Fr Lio Rotor said he was assigned to a very strong faith community thanks to the predecessors in the parish.

“Pastoral and spiritual growth is something that I am passionate about,” he said. “Even with a strong faith community, there is still room to grow.”

Fr Rotor said that last year, he asked the parish coordinator for faith formation, Joyce Ng, to come up with programmes targeting the needs of the community.

“There are parishioners who would only come to Mass,” he said. “How do we reach them?”

Mrs Ng said they formed a team and came up with different ways to address the needs of the parishioners.

“We came up with the idea of liturgical teachings in place of homilies every second Sunday of the month,” she said.

“In line with our motto ‘together we grow to reflect the face of Christ’, we wanted to empower every parishioner with the basic knowledge of the beliefs and traditions of the Catholic Church,” she added.

The teachings include topics on the liturgical year and Ash Wednesday; learning about the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church is getting underway.

“We have had encouraging feedback from the parishioners. Some responded that it was good revision for them while others said they have learned new things,” Mrs Ng said.

Further, parishioners who would like to learn more about their faith and deepen their knowledge of Scripture, are offered Fr Robert Barron’s Catholicism series as well as Thursday Scripture reflections on books of the Bible and the traditions of the Church.

In addition, to help in the parishioners’ spiritual  development, a three-day retreat called “Receive the Holy Spirit” led by assistant parish priest Fr Jude Algama was conducted in preparation for Pentecost.

“The soft-spoken Fr Jude gently led us to the knowledge of the Holy Spirit, the gifts and fruits, the teachings of the Church and Scripture passages on the Holy Spirit, and what life in the Holy Spirit entails besides a praise and worship component,” said Mrs Ng.

Retreats were also conducted for the different ministries in our parish — the catechists, eucharistic ministers and readers.