• image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
Thursday, 15 May 2014 09:26

An evolving ministry

Rate this item
(2 votes)

Sister Elaine Morzone mfic writes about her work as Spirituality and Mission Development Officer and reveals the richness and diversity of parish groups in the Diocese of Toowoomba in Queensland.

I minister in the extensive yet not so heavily populated Diocese of Toowoomba on the Darling Downs of south west Queensland which covers an area of four hundred and eighty seven thousand square kilometres. I am based in Toowoomba, the largest city in the region which is about 132 Kilometres west of Brisbane. My ministry, however, reaches out to embrace parishes and rural communities throughout the diocese, particularly those whose personnel resources are limited. This means that I am often on the road, along with the many huge road trains that are a key means of transporting goods and livestock in the area. It is a common sight to see the carcasses of kangaroos, wallabies, emus, pigs, feral goats on the rural roads. While the possibility of hitting an animal on the road is a danger to be avoided, at this point I have experienced more grief from the sight in the town of Mitchell of at least eight sizeable green frogs in the bowl of an outside toilet in the parish grounds! Given that the western outback was suffering from a devastating drought, I felt I should not begrudge God’s creatures the right to some reprieve from the scorching heat.

Essentially, my role as Spirituality and Mission Development Officer is to nurture missionary discipleship in the context of the parish and diocesan faith community. In dealing with those involved in parish pastoral councils or church ministry, the challenge is to ensure that the inspiration and energy of the spirit underpins the external activity and that maintenance is replaced by mission. On the other side of the coin, there is the need to stimulate the spirituality of parishioners so that it does not become stagnant, a means of satisfying personal needs which does not translate into missionary outreach and willingness to be co-responsible in working to make the world a better place.

My two key areas of focus to date have been spirituality enrichment in the diocese by the provision of retreats and spiritual enrichment days, and practical faith formation and facilitation of parish pastoral councils and other leadership groups within the parish or deanery setting. Now that my former colleague is no longer working with the diocese, it seems that my involvement will expand to include a third focus, namely coordinating training for full-time lay pastoral ministers via a new program to be introduced to the diocese entitled “Foundations for Evangelizing Ministers.”

I have enjoyed my ministry, particularly the spiritual enrichment and retreat days. I am pleased to be able to offer opportunities for people in their own parish setting without the burden of cost which so many in current economic circumstances would not be able to afford. A richness of our diocese that is often overlooked can be found in the number of parish groups that meet regularly for bible sharing, Christian meditation, spiritual renewal, or for communal prayer in one of its many diverse forms. I am currently working on a new initiative to bring groups together across parish boundaries in an effort to inject new life via a guest speaker presentation and the enrichment that comes from mutual sharing. Walking the Emmaus Journey Together is an opportunity for members of these groups to awaken to the richness of grace entrusted to them, to open themselves to new possibilities of growth in prayer, to deepen the bonds of communion amongst them and to seek together for ways in which the ministry of prayer can become a powerhouse of light and life on the missionary journey of discipleship. I am also planning to facilitate opportunities for people to come together to deepen their understanding of scripture.

My ministry has been very much a solo affair but I have now established a Spirituality and Mission Development Committee to provide me with creative and visionary support in promoting activities and inter-parish events designed to nourish the life of the diocese. Our human resources officer has also recently introduced into this office the concept of the Mission and Ministry Advancement Team which includes a Project Officer (Communications and Religious Education in State Schools), the Youth Ministry Coordinator and myself. The three of us, together with the liturgy officer and the coordinator of special religious education will attend the Proclaim 2014 conference in August with the intention of working as a team on our return. With a mandate from the Bishop, we hope to bring new life and energy to the deaneries and parishes of the diocese. How these hopes and dreams will work out is yet uncertain but what is clear is that my ministry continues to be in a process of evolution.

This article first appeared in the March 2014 edition of the Australian Circle Newsletter, the newsletter of the Missionary Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception Australia (MFIC).

Read more about the Missionary Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception Australia (MFIC).