Augusto Zampini-Davies, the Argentinian priest who Pope Francis has asked to play a leading role in the Vatican’s COVID-19 Commission, has been quoted as saying the following:
What is essential? This is the question. What is essential for the Church to resume, to regenerate and to allow the Holy Spirit to ignite the essential dimension of Christianity? If Christ is walking with us in this tragic moment, where does he want to lead us?
On Monday 8 June, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Advisory Council, our current parish leadership group, met for the first time since the closing of our church building. The main focus of our conversation was to visit the question on the minds of many, with the easing of the COVID-19 restrictions: Where to from here?
We quickly realised that the answer to this question was larger than the group of the seven gathered around the table. It is a question which invites all of us to participate in dialogue and discernment as we move into the future.
We have all been in the ‘same storm’ but certainly NOT in the ‘same boat’, during this time of isolation. In other words, all of us have had varied experiences during these past three to four months.
We could simply take the easy road and go back to ‘business as usual’, but what a loss to our community it would be, if the many rich and grace filled moments shared over these past months with family and friends and work colleagues, were not voiced; and the challenging times we have lived through, learning much about ourselves and others, did not become part of our shared memory as a faith community!
Therefore, we are all invited to participate in dialogue and discernment with each other on Sunday 19 July from 10am until 12noon in the Mt Carmel Hall (on the school property).
The question we will all engage with: Where to from here as the Mt Carmel parish community? What might our community look like?
More information will follow in the coming weeks but claim the date in your diary and come along!
Jane Connolly, the chair of our Advisory Council has been asked to facilitate this time together, along with the other ‘lay’ members of the council. Unfortunately the Carmelites will not be present at this gathering for reasons I have pointed out already in previous newsletters.
However, I see this as an exciting initiative, laity led, inclusive of women, adopting a shared wisdom model of leadership.
It highlights that with any movement forward, all voices matter, and all people matter, especially the most vulnerable within our community!
I am a child of the 50s and 60s when life was both less complex and ‘treats’ were simpler.
I can remember as a child being delighted when ‘good behaviour’ was rewarded with golden syrup dumplings! Mum or Dad would place into a large saucepan of boiling water dough like balls that would emerge sometime later, larger than when they first went into the water, and sweet syrup would be poured over them accompanied by a dollop of ice-cream! YUM!
These past few months for our Carmelite community have been a bit like the making of this age-old sweet treat. There has been solitude, isolation, grief, anxiety, separation from loved ones, loss of identity, confusion, pain ,uncertainty etc. and much of what so many have experienced , the ‘boiling water’ as it were of the consequences for us of the pandemic.
But we have experienced so much more as a community:
- The deepening of our religious identity as Carmelites, coming together for Eucharist and having at the table of Eucharist the intentions of our parishioners.
- A deepening of our relationships with the parish community with 800 emails being sent each week and many phone calls attempting to maintain some connection with the most vulnerable among us.
- Seventy one parishioners have been invited to gather for Eucharist on a Sunday, and each weekend we have had a different focus e.g. to be in communion with our sisters and brothers in the developing world; those who have loved ones on the front line working in various medical services in countries hugely impacted by this pandemic. We have been aware of the most vulnerable within our local community, especially the sick and the elderly, and being in solidarity with those who have lost their jobs and financial security as family etc.
- We have been coming together for simple shared meals and trying in this way of hospitality to support young families struggling with health and financial challenges.
- We have received the generosity of those who have shared the food of their own table with us, and listened to their stories.
Grant me the grace to long for you and not my illusions of you,
to be surrendered to you and not to my images of you,
to know you as love’s questions rather than as binding answers,
to rest in the hope of what I do not understand about you,
and to be forever willing to give up what I know about you in order to seek you afresh.
Blessings and enjoy the journey!