by JEFF DILLON
A panel discussion with a difference attempted to wrap up the thoughts emerging from the two days at the National Parish Leadership Conference on “Seeking Holiness in a secular society”.
Participants were challenged to consider why they should remain loyal to the Catholic Church in the current environment. They were to think privately and then share in discussion with nearby members, after a few minutes of contemplation. To help crystallise the many thoughts in the room, the panel members then shared their own individual prepared contemplations. To summarise very briefly:
Maya Bernardo, a Filipino Catholic from Wellington, said it was a mystery in some respects, but she was like St Peter, because where else would she go other than to be with Christ. She was a faithful dissenter. There was nowhere else she would rather be.
For Dunedin priest, Fr Gerard Aynsley, he finds inspiration in the people of faith attending Sunday Mass and in the presence of Jesus in their lives. He has never contemplated leaving and he will remain a priest.
For Dave Mullin from Palmerston North, it was the fact that the Church does inspire people, even those with no religious belief at all. Our society needs a Church that responds to some of the horrific social problems that exist and a Church that reflects Christ.
For Therese Lautua from Auckland, her number one reason was the Eucharist.
Also as she was involved in the RCIA programme in her parish, she had seen the amazing transformation in people’s lives as they gained in faith during the course of instruction.
Amy Armstrong, one of the organisers of the conference, summed up the success of the event: “I think the conference was a fantastic success — almost entirely because of the 127 people who showed up with a deep love of God, hopeful about creating a Church that is ever closer to the Gospel.
It can be a tough and lonely mission to be a pastoral worker in our Church, so it was heartening and energising to be with others who are on the same journey.”
“Both keynote speakers, Daniel [Ang] and Kitty [McKinley] really spoke to the current context of the Catholic Church in Oceania. Both addresses were infused with the stark reality of where we are at and yet hope that God is always with us.
“Many of the workshop presenters commented as to how the keynotes fed naturally into what they were talking about. Almost all of the . . . workshop presenters (19 out of 20) were from New Zealand, which shows the calibre of people in the Church of Aotearoa. It was also very special for us to host it in the Dunedin diocese,. . . . A highlight for me was the energetic and Spirit filled singing at the closing Mass which was the final conference event on the Saturday night. The Church is filled with loud and harmonious voices