The Church will be in danger of becoming little more than a religious non-government organisation if Catholics don’t rediscover a call to mission, Sydney priests heard last week at their annual conference, The Catholic Weekly reports.
Daniel Ang, the Director of the Office for Evangelisation in the Diocese of Broken Bay, delivered a sobering assessment of the state of Australian parishes to 180 Archdiocese of Sydney priests before providing a roadmap out of the malaise.
A former pastoral planner in the Diocese of Parramatta, Mr Ang affirmed, along with the Pontiff and Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP, that the future of the Church relied on the vitality of parishes.
Parishes in Australia, however, had failed to attend to the changing culture and conditions around them.
Instead they continued to offer programs that sacramentalised people without first “discipling” them into a relationship with Jesus and his Church, often simply as a means of providing parents with a pathway into the local Catholic school.
On the outreach side, research among the "nones" – the increasing number of people who identify as having no religion – was revealing the folly of programs that were more often than not targeted at reactivating non-practising Catholics.
“While scandal and poor experiences of Church and parish can be a part of the story, realistically some have shed the Catholic ‘brand’ as they have come to the plain and simple conclusion that their lives simply no longer reflect the religion they inherited,” Mr Ang said.
“(The) ‘nones’ are not saying, ‘If only you had a better version of Church I would go to it’. They are not interested in ‘Church’ at all, so our new coffee and contemporary Church music is not what they are looking for.”
Evangelisation demanded that we “adjust our eyes and lengthen our arms to reach increasingly secular people where our relationships with them, rather than religious upgrades, will take priority”.
There were three areas in which the Church could begin to turn things around: in taking pre-evangelisation seriously (relationship building, Christian witness and dialogue); in the recovery of discipleship as the fundamental basis of parish life and mission; and in setting a parish vision for motivating growth and change.
Church in danger of becoming a godless NGO (The Catholic Weekly)