18 June 2011 - Launch of the Family-School-Parish Document

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Home > Archbishop > Homilies > 18 June 2011 - Launch of the Family-School-Parish Document

Launch of the Family-School-Parish Document
18 June 2011

As you would be aware, there are many factors which come into consideration when decisions about dates for special events are being reached. While it might have been an element of the decision in relation to this particular occasion, I have a feeling that the fact that it is the vigil of the Feast of the Blessed Trinity, did not feature strongly. But it is a happy situation to be in just the same.

Tomorrow, on this very important feast, we celebrate the love that the three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, have for each other. We are also made aware that through our baptism, we are invited to enter into that love and that community as well.

Here in the Cathedral, on the occasion of the Mass of the Blessing of the Oils during Holy Week, I made reference to the number three – three different oils to be blessed,  and the three different groups of people to whom we made special reference that evening, the priests, the catechumens and the People of God.

Today, with the launch of this document, three elements, in this instance of family, school and parish, are all brought to our attention. As in the other instances, there are some very close connections between the three elements and that is the reason why it has been seen desirable to pursue their close relationship and to offer suggestions about how that relationship can be strengthened and grow.

Every child in our Catholic schools here in Tasmania comes from a family. It may be in some instances, that family is fractured and not able to provide everything that we would hope it could, but the family still remains the primary relationship for any child, and indeed for us all. There are plenty of indications that the parish as we have come to know it, does not readily answer the needs of people, but the idea of a Christians being linked to a community of believers who come together to celebrated the Eucharist is still something very precious in our Christian tradition.

Clearly, we are talking about children who are currently attending one of the 37 Catholic schools or colleges throughout Tasmania. While a child is at a particular school, it becomes for us a most significant element of his or her life, covering those very informative years of primary and secondary education. In many instances, the faith and direction of life for our children will depend on the outcome of that very important phase which however will only last for a defined period of time.

The parish has been the traditional community where people gather,  most importantly for the celebration of the Eucharist, but also where people can receive support, encouragement and friendship from those who also take seriously the invitation to be followers of Jesus. There may be many difficulties in relation to the actual configuration of the parish, and the manner in which it remains viable, but as the community which gathers for the celebration of the Eucharist in particular, there can be no doubt about the continuing importance it enjoys in the life each of us. Of all three, it may feature longest of all in the life of a student at one of our schools.

In one of his apostolic exhortations, the late Blessed Pope John Paul II recalled the words of his predecessor, Pope Paul VI when he wrote:

“We believe simply that this old and venerable structure of the parish has an indispensable mission of great contemporary importance: to create the basic community of the Christian people; to initiate and gather the people in the accustomed expression of liturgical life; to conserve and renew the faith of the people of today; to serve as the school for preaching the salvific message of Christ; to put solidarity in practice and work the humble charity of good and brotherly works.”1

This particular initiative came as a result of days of discernment which took place in the years 2006, 2007, 2008 and a further gathering in 2009. I am very grateful to the working party representing Catholic Education, the Parishes and Priests, and the Federation of Catholic Parents and Friends Associations, for the hard work which they undertook over a period of nearly two years, resulting in this very clear and attractive presentation as the final document.

I am particularly pleased that the recently published Vision and Mission Statements of the Archdiocese of Hobart have been incorporated into the document, and indeed, have become the basis and foundation of it. In the Mission Statement, under the heading of “We are Called”, and in the subsection “Called to collaborate,” the first suggestion is indeed to strengthen the links of family, school and parish.

Likewise in the earlier document, the Archbishop’s Charter for Catholic Schools, the importance of this three-way relationship was highlighted as well. Under the heading  “Links to the Parish Community” the document seeks to encourage and foster the relationship between the local parish and the school. One of the more detailed suggestions is: “Develop models of family involvement and partnership that positively link the school or college with its parish community.”2

I do not think we should underestimate the challenge that this document poses for us. It will require time, effort and perseverance, and the beginnings may be with just small numbers. But it is important to hold on to the big vision. That vision is very beautifully outlined in the Gospel reading today, when Jesus addressed the people in the synagogue with strength and conviction.

We now have been anointed to bring the good news to the poor, to release people from their uncertainty, to give them a purpose and direction in their lives. The family, the school and the parish all contribute to creating the favourable environment for this growth to happen. In a very real sense, the scripture vision is being fulfilled today and it can be taken much further through the implementation of this vision through this document and what it encourages.

Yet again,  we place our future in God’s hands, but with confidence, we ask for what we need today, to implement the project we have undertaken.


1 Pope Paul VI, as quoted in Christifideles Laici, Pope John Paul II, par. 26

2 Archbishop’s Charter: “Links to the Parish Community” section 2.