Proclaim Spring Gatherings 2019
Forming Missionary Disciples, Building Missionary Parishes
Over 200 participants from more than 60 parishes took part in the Proclaim Spring Gatherings, Evangelisation workshops held at five venues across the Diocese during February and March. As one participant exclaimed, ‘It was so good to be with people from different parishes who shared enthusiasm for Christ’. Passion for bringing the Good News of the Gospel to others was indeed at the heart of the Gatherings. Liturgy, presentations and round-table discussion gave an opportunity for parish priests, parish teams and individuals to share and learn from each other, responding to Pope Francis’ call to build ‘Missionary Parishes’ and grow ‘Missionary Disciples’.
Each Gathering was led by one of Westminster’s auxiliary bishops. Bishop Nicholas Hudson at the workshop for parishes in Central and Eastern Areas of the Diocese, quoting from Blessed John Henry Newman talked about how as evangelisers we are to ‘Radiate Christ’, and that through exercising corporal and spiritual ‘Works of Mercy’ we can evangelise in diverse ways: through prayer, faith formation, through marriage and family life, and through social action, that is ‘caritas’. In the Hertfordshire Gathering, Bishop McAleenan posed the question, ‘Is the call to evangelise exciting or daunting?’ He challenged the fifty people attending the workshop to look out to the wider community as well as to those within the parish, and seek new ways to make the full message of the Church better known, calling on external help when needed to support the work of local evangelisation. Bishop John Wilson, at St Mark’s school in Hounslow, where the Gathering for West Area parishes was held, spoke of the need for us always to ready to share our faith; such as the time he visited a local garage to get his car tyre fixed and how the chatty, young mechanic, finding out that he was a bishop, proclaimed how important that the forthcoming baptism for his young child was to him and his wife; indeed taking off his shirt to reveal a large tattoo of the crucified Christ to Bishop John – and to the queue of customers which was forming behind him!
At the Niland Centre in Bushey, Bishop John Sherrington led the liturgy at the North Area Gathering, and gave a slide presentation which focused on the family. Quoting St John Paul II, he reiterated the call that, “Every effort should be made to strengthen and develop pastoral care for the family…… in the certainty that future evangelization depends largely on the domestic Church”. He pointed to the increasing complexity of Catholic family life, and how the faith is not passed on as it was in the past. Bishop John also referred to the Post Synodal document on Youth that highlighted the urgent need for a profound rethink on how “catechesis is presented and of the connection between passing on the faith in families and in the community, with greater emphasis on processes of personal accompaniment”. The Proclaim Spring Gatherings have been well received by those who attended: ‘a good deal of food for thought and concrete ideas for the parish’, ‘we came away refreshed and with enthusiasm to actually go and do something!’ The Gatherings’ closing liturgy called on the Holy Spirit to fill participants with new energy to share the message of the Gospel in their parishes and beyond.
More information on parish evangelisation is available on the Agency for Evangelisation pages of the Diocese of Westminster Website.
Deacon Adrian Cullen, Evangelisation Coordinator.
From Evangelii Gaudium to
Fr Chris Vipers, Director of the Agency for Evangelisation, in welcoming participants to each of the Spring Gatherings set the scene on how evangelisation has been given new energy since the publication of Pope Francis’ exhortation Evangelli Gaudium ‘Joy of the Gospel’ in 2013. In July 2015 the Bishop’s Conference of England and Wales responded with a national conference in Birmingham. This was followed in November 2015 with a ‘Westminster Proclaim’ Conference, attendedby more than 300 people from over 140 parishes. Fr Chris explained how following Proclaim Westminster, parishes set up evangelisation teams, undertaking a variety of initiatives under the headings of Prayer, Faith Formation, Marriage & Family Life and Caritas. Over five-hundred evangeilising initiatives were identified initially, and more established each year since.
Initiatives have included the establishment of new prayer groups and adoration liturgies; the re-vitalising of SVP groups and participation in Caritas ‘Love in Action’ projects; increased numbers of Lent and autumn Faith-Sharing Groups; family and youth prayer and activity programmes; and the development of parish welcoming teams and outreach projects.
The Proclaim Spring Gatherings 2019 are building on the successes already achieved, to bring new energy through sharing experiences and ideas, and to help more parishes to become ‘missionary parishes, forming ‘missionary disciples’.
Teams, Vision, Action
‘Round-Table’ discussion at the Proclaim Spring Gatherings explored how Parish Evangelisation Teams were to be the ‘evangelising conscience’ of the parish. By developing a ‘Vision’, focusing on its ‘Local Mission’ and involving parishioners in ‘Evangelizing Initiatives’, the local parish builds into a ‘missionary parish’, reaching out those who have not heard of Jesus; and helping those who already know him to know him better and become ‘missionary disciples’. Amongst the presentations and talks given, participants heard from Kentish Town Parish on its evangelizing work to the homeless; from St Alban’s Parish – its Mission Team helps parishioners to reach out to passers-by through events such as ‘share a light’; from White City Parish – which has a variety of community outreach events; and Potters Bar Parish – which is developing an Alpha Programme, encouraging people to talk about life and faith. There were plenty of new and inspiring ideas and examples of evangelizing initiatives for participants to take away, and, as one participant put it, to help ‘kick-star’ the renewal of our parish’’