My dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
I begin this letter by asking you to note the title I have given it: Fit for Mission – Takatū Ki Te Mau I Te Rongo Pai. The message of this letter is to challenge each of us, lay, clergy, religious – and myself – to work as disciples of Christ with strong commitment, discipline, and courage on the spiritual fitness we need for our Mission. The Mission of sharing our faith.
Pope Francis is encouraging the whole Church to look again at the sharing of our life and faith in today’s world. He calls us to go to the edges, to the people who have forgotten, or never heard the message of Jesus. To inspire others to a personal relationship with Jesus through the witness of our lives. So I invite us all to be dynamic, enthusiastic messengers of the Gospel among all with whom we live and work, and beyond.
Priorities for Mission
In the light of that call I wish to outline some priorities for our diocese to be “Fit for Mission”. These continue the two previous stages of pastoral planning That You May Have Life/Kia Whai Oranga Ai Koutou. During this period parishes and communities adopted goals and strategies which developed and built up their Eucharistic communities. The major emphases were on creating vibrant parishes, adult faith formation, support for youth & young adults and evangelisation. Those activities prepared us for Mission; this plan takes us a stage further.
Go Forth the Mass is ended
The first priority is to urge parishes, communities, and schools to focus more specifically and practically on reaching out to those outside our communities – to find ways and means to draw them more fully to know and love Christ Jesus. This is what the Church calls mission ad extra (to those beyond our normal boundaries). Pope Francis puts it like this:
Jesus teaches us another way. Go out. Go out and share your testimony. Go out and interact with your brothers and sisters, Go out and share, Go out and ask. Become the Word in body as well as spirit.
This reminds us that in celebrating the Eucharist we are being nurtured by Jesus not just for ourselves but in order to be sent out as his disciples to engage others in the world.
This first priority lays the foundation of all that will follow: a vision of Mission that I want all Catholics of our diocese to share and live by. It challenges us to ensure that the pastoral and evangelizing activities of our communities are Mission focused. In doing so, I hope we will becomes ever more loving communities of welcome, inclusion and outreach.
The Church does not “have a mission”. No, the mission of Jesus “has a Church”!
We are his followers, his disciples. We all share co-responsibility for that mission. This mission to transform the world with Christian values is already seen when we share faith at work, befriend co-workers, offer to pray for those in trouble, stand out against injustices, and volunteer for all kinds of good works. I commend these activities as an on-going, important part of the Mission
This new stage of our Diocesan Plan calls us to continual personal conversion leading us together to make mission and outreach the central focus of our communities, bringing the love of Jesus to all .
Therefore we must equip our parishes and communities in concrete ways such as:
- fostering habits and forms of prayer to sustain Mission
- communicating the message of Jesus within and beyond the Catholic community
- welcoming new and returning members
- collaborating with wider society on issues of justice and peace
- providing suitable leadership
- reaching out to those in any kind of need, physical, spiritual or emotional
- assisting families who may be facing difficulties
- cooperating with other Christian Churches and other faiths
- linking with other Churches or civic organizations serving people in need
- relating to people different from ourselves
- developing and supporting the overseas missionary work of the Church
- engaging the families of Catholic school pupils
- sharing our resources
Pastoral Areas for Mission
My second priority is to say we don’t have to do it alone. By working collaboratively across parish boundaries in wider pastoral areas and including our school communities, we can often accomplish the mission of Jesus more effectively. By organizing groups of related parishes in the various parts of the Diocese into pastoral areas and including our schools we can create much greater potential for achieving the vision of this mission than if we have parishes communities and schools all operating as separate entities.
What may be challenging or daunting for a parish, ethnic community or a school by itself may be more manageable for a pastoral area. These pastoral areas will be determined through assessing which combinations of parishes, ethnic communities and schools are best able to achieve these missionary activities. Some schools are already working in clusters.
Related to this spirit of collaboration and co-responsibility, is my hope that our Catholic schools, ethnic communities, our parishes and pastoral areas will build even stronger links. It is true to say that our schools are sometimes the only experience of Church or Eucharist for some families. It is important that we reach out to those families who value Catholic education but do not participate in the wider life of the Church.
Most of our schools include families from multiple parishes. Pastoral areas will help to address the needs of these families more effectively.
Strong parish, school and ethnic communities will help shape pastoral areas that will strengthen out ‘fitness’ for Mission.
Leadership for Mission
The third priority is leadership. For parishes, communities and pastoral areas it is necessary that the leadership at every level promotes co-responsibility and collaboration among clergy and laity. Our taking ownership of such co-responsible mission planning and activity will build trust, and allow for more sharing of information leading to better outcomes for Mission.
Fostering shared leadership will empower our communities and pastoral areas. Using our varied gifts and leadership styles, and opening the door to greater creativity in our thinking, will make us ‘fit’ for Mission.
Collaborative and co-responsible ministry is not for its own sake but for mission. It is the uniting of many gifts for the sake of the mission of Christ. We will support this Plan by offering formation for clergy and laity together.
Communication for Mission
My fourth priority is communication. With the rapid growth of new technologies we have the opportunity to assess what are the best communication strategies for us to succeed in proclaiming the Good News.
We will review our communication processes to identify the infra-structures required to make us ‘fit’ for Mission technologically as well as in the other ways.
Support for Mission.
As bishop, I will continue to work collaboratively with the Council of Priests, the Diocesan Administration Board, the Diocesan Pastoral Council, Catholic Schools and all who work in the Pompallier Diocesan Centre in the day to day service of our diocese.
I recognize the key leadership role of our priests. I plan to support them to work collaboratively with their parish councils and parishioners and other relevant community groups. I will be appointing key experienced pastors to co-ordinate on-going formation and support for their fellow priests.
I also recognise and acknowledge the significant role our Catholic schools contribute to Mission and will continue to support them. I will continue to encourage them to work more closely with parishes and within pastoral areas.
A Policy and Guidance Manual, to assist co-responsible and collaborative pastoral leadership will be compiled.
I am grateful for all those who have helped me identify the priorities outlined in this letter.
I ask each and every one of you to continue to become ‘fit’ for Mission. As we meet regarding this plan in our various groups can we consider how to implement these our priorities?
My warmest thanks to you for this collaboration with me in our joint Mission of bringing our friends, neighbours and all others we meet to know and live as Jesus Christ.
My prayers and blessings go with you as we set out to become ever more “fit” to respond to that urgent call to Mission
Go out! Go out and share your testimony. Go out and interact with your brothers and sisters.
Go out and share, Go out and ask.
Become the Word in body as well as spirit.
Bishop of Auckland
Festival of Pentecost 2014
Fit for Mission
Download the Pastoral Plan Fit for Mission and other useful resources.
The Pastoral Plan:
A PowerPoint Introduction: Fit_for_Mission_introduction
Question cards to help communities ask questions as they implement the Pastoral Plan
FFM Ideas for engaging with document Some suggestions for how communities could explore the Pastoral Plan