News from the Diocese
ALPHA... Join the Adventure
Alpha is a tool for evangelisation that is being used by thousands of Catholic parishes around the world to introduce people to the first proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ, otherwise known as the Kerygma: “Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you, and now he is living at your side to enlighten, strengthen and free you” (Evangelii Gaudium, 164).
Alpha is a series of interactive sessions that explore the basics of the Christian faith in a friendly, open and informal environment. It is a parish tool for evangelisation based on welcome and hospitality, sharing and prayer, all in the midst of a caring parish setting. Each session includes a meal, a talk, and small group discussion, where no question is too simple and no answer is pre-packaged.
Alpha explores many questions such as: Is there more to life than this? Who is Jesus? Why did Jesus die? How can I have Faith? Why and how do I pray? Why and how do I read the Bible? How does God guide us? How can I resist evil? Does God heal today? What about the Church and telling others?
Wanna know more about Alpha in the Diocese of Wollongong. Click here to check out the recent article in Journey Magazine all about Alpha.
Alpha is already scheduled to be run in two parishes in the Diocese. Click the following parish links for Alpha dates and times:
- Christmas Mass Times 2017
- Journey 62 - Summer 2016 | READ ONLINE NOW!
"You Matter. You are a priority," Prison Chaplains across Australia deliver 'A Message for Prisoners' during the Year of Mercy
Prison Chaplains across Australia are delivering a special ‘Message for Prisoners’ from the Catholic Church about love and hope from the Australian Catholic Prisoners Pastoral Care Council.
This message marks the Jubilee for Prisoners chosen by Pope Francis to be celebrated during the Year of Mercy on 6 November 2016.
In his message written for prisoners, Bishop Delegate for the Australian Catholic Prisoners Pastoral Care Council, the Most Reverend Terry Brady said, ‘Pope Francis shows us the importance of accompanying one another in the ups and downs of life. We all stumble; make mistakes; fail others and ourselves. But we are all capable of loving and of experiencing hope’.
Bishop Brady said this special day for prisoners, occurring during the Year of Mercy, invites each one of us to follow the merciful example of God, ‘to forgive and love rather than judge and condemn’.
‘Many people have spent time in jail – including saints and even Jesus himself. His message is meant for everyone, regardless of the circumstances because we all possess human dignity.’
Recognising and valuing the human dignity of Prisoners, Pope Francis said, ‘no one is beyond the reach of God’s mercy’. In the past, our thinking and beliefs have been that everything will be resolved by ‘isolating, separating, incarcerating’ but in fact ‘the care of prisoners is a moral imperative for the whole of society’, reintegration does not begin within prison walls but rather ‘outside – in the streets’, the Holy Father said.
It is during the time in prison that ‘the task of a chaplain is to let the prisoners know that the Lord is inside with them. No cell is so isolated that it can keep the Lord out. He is there,’ Pope Francis said.
Speaking about ‘Reaching Out, A Message for Prisoners’, Fr Peter Carroll MSC, Chairman of the Australian Catholic Prisoners Pastoral Care Council said, ‘The Council would like every prison chaplain across Australia to know that their vital ministry is acknowledged and appreciated by the Church in Australia during this Jubilee for Prisoners in the Year of Mercy. The role of a prison chaplain is essential in many ways, especially in affirming the uniqueness of each individual. ’
‘It is easy to forget the families who are also affected by having a loved one in prison. They too need the prayers of our Catholic community and practical gestures of concern and support from our parish communities.’
‘It is my hope that each Prison Chaplain will use this message as a resource to continue their essential and pastoral conversations with prisoners about their human value; their self worth in our society and their importance in the eyes of the Church.’
As part of the Jubilee for Prisoners, the Catholic Diocese of Wollongong has distributed thousands of copies of its EMMANUEL Daily Advent and Christmas Reflection Book to inmates in all prisons in NSW.
You can download the message and prayer here: http://dow.sh/messageprisonersDL
Halloween – Ghoulish or Godly?
Halloween is growing in popularity but its roots are lost on most people. It is observed on 31 October, the "een" or "eve" of All Hallows Day (All Saints Day) on 1 November.
"Hallow” occurs in the Lord's Prayer – "hallowed be thy name" (may God's name be held holy) – so to celebrate Halloween without connecting it to All Saints Day would be like celebrating Christmas Eve without a Christmas Day.
If you take away the Saints from Halloween, along with our Christian beliefs about the dignity and destiny of human beings, then all you have left is a pre-Christian Celtic celebration held at the end of summer in the northern hemisphere. As days shorten and winter nights lengthen, the spirits (goblins and ghouls) have more dark time to be mischievous and haunt. The pagans appeased them with treats so as not to suffer their tricks. The “trick or treat” tradition comes from people disguising themselves as evil spirits, both to fool them into leaving them alone, as well as to steal the treats left by people to appease the evil spirits.
When Christianity came to Ireland, they wisely baptised “Halloween,” sifting out what was true and disposing of the superstitious. We Christians believe in a spirit world of angels and saints. All the baptised, both on earth and who have gone before us in faith, belong to the Communion of Saints. So the old pagan custom of appeasing the spirits became a Christian holy time of remembering them, of being connected with them in love, and not being frightened of them.
In time there developed (it seems in Ireland) a feast of the spirits who intercede for us, not frighten us. This became the celebration of All Saints at the end of the northern summer and some time later evolved All Souls Day to pray for the spirits on the way to God but who needed help.
All this reminds us, despite our modern day individualism, of the unbelievable connections we have in the family of God – on earth, in purgatory and in heaven. So these days of Halloween, All Hallows (All Saints), All Souls celebrate what we believe and name the “Communion of Saints.”
Fr William Bausch says dressing up for Halloween ritually connects us and symbolically joins us to the community of the invisible world. He says that the scary masks (witches, skeletons, etc) from a Christian point of view, are a symbol of human disfigurement brought on by sin, betrayal, sickness and death. But faith reminds us that eventually those masks, by the grace of God and our faith, will be removed and we shall be made beautiful as ugliness dissolves, sin is cleansed and even the last enemy, death, falls before the everlasting mercy of Christ.
Jack-o-the Lanterns, roaming forever between heaven and earth, holding his pumpkin lantern high, is a one-man morality tale associated with Halloween. Jack is smart enough to outwit the devil himself, but it is not enough to get him into heaven. Jack was so self-centred that he never helped another human being. He used his giftedness only for himself. While Jack knew about faith and the power of the Cross, he failed to take up his cross and follow Jesus.
Fr Bill points to the irony of our modern world which really discounts faith, the interior life and organised religion, yet plays this cultural game of secular Halloween. But the spiritual, in fact, sneaks in, as secular people flirt on Halloween with the possibilities of another world and, as Fr Bill puts it, Halloween “scratches a growing spiritual itch without losing face.” He says it shows that our very one-dimensional secular world still needs fulfilment and peace – something deeper.
Halloween, like Christmas, is becoming very commercial. As a result, we do not even come close to thinking of it in terms of faith and religion. To help us make the connection, Fr Bausch suggests:
First, before going out “trick or treating,” why not gather the family to offer a prayer for deceased members and friends, people of our past who meant something to us and whose influence is still with us.
Second, bring out the family album for the triduum of Halloween, All Saints, and All Souls; put it on the coffee table with a little lit candle in front of it. This makes a statement to your children or grandchildren that we all come from a long line of people who loved us and that Halloween is sacred time as well as fun time, that we are part of their journey as they are of ours.
Third, on All Saints Day, possibly around the dinner table, have family members research the saint after whom they are named and tell everyone something about him or her.
Finally, you might bring some of the things you may get by going around tricking or treating to a nursing home or send to the St Vincent de Paul Society.
Halloween, All Saints, All Souls: is especially a time of faith but can also have a touch of “trick or treat” fun!
[Fr William Bausch “Once Upon a Gospel” Pp 572-574.]
Halloween also invites us to talk openly about death which is a taboo topic for so many, almost as if it were not a real fact of life! You and I need to press the "pause" button in our crowded lives to reflect on our own mortality, with all the spiritual and practical consequences that go with it. Fortunately each year the Church gives us two feasts, All Hallows (Saints) and All Souls (the Commemoration of all the Faithful who are departed) to do this.
Most Rev Peter W Ingham DD
Bishop of Wollongong
27 October 2016
EMMANUEL - Advent and Christmas Reflections 2016 | ORDER NOW
Continuing the tradition from past years, Emmanuel is a 72 page pocket-size book containing short daily reflections from the beginning of Advent (27 November 2016) through to the Baptism of the Lord (9 January 2017) primarily for personal use, but also appropriate for group use such as parish, Church agency, religious community and school staff/class prayer.
These spiritually rich, yet accessible, daily reflections have been written by twelve contributors from the Diocese of Wollongong:
- Sr Eileen Brown SGS (Good Samaritan Sisters, Wollongong)
- Mr Ken Bryant (Head of Catholic Life, Education and Mission Services, Catholic Education, Diocese of Wollongong)
- Fr David Catterall PP (Parish Priest, St Mary MacKillop Parish Oran Park)
- Fr Sean Cullen PP (Parish Priest, St Thomas Aquinas Parish Bowral and St Michael's Parish Mittagong)
- Fr Leo Duck (Priest in Residence, Holy Spirit Church Vincentia)
- Mr Peter Gilmore (Faith Education Officer, Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Diocese of Wollongong)
- Fr Shane Kelleher OCD PP (Parish Priest, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish Varroville)
- Mrs Suzanne Marden (Team Leader for Staff Spiritual Formation, Catholic Education, Diocese of Wollongong)
- Miss Trish McCarthy (Faith Education Officer, Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Diocese of Wollongong)
- Fr Christopher G Sarkis PP (Parish Priest, Our Lady Help of Christians Parish Rosemeadow)
- Sr Hilda Scott OSB (Benedictine Abbey Jamberoo)
- Fr Graham Schmitzer PP (Parish Priest, Immaculate Conception Parish Unanderra)
Emmanuel also features beautiful religious artworks from the Masters such as Duccio, Caravaggio and Fra Angelico with enlightening “artwork spotlight” descriptions written by Fr Graham Schmitzer PP.
Many customers buy bulk copies of the book for family and friends as an alternative to Christmas cards. We have included a page in the book for you to write your Christmas gift message.
If you have any questions, please contact us on (02) 4222 2400 or email us at orders [AT] dow [DOT] org [DOT] au
Delivery is expected to begin in the first week of November.
Please note, if you live in the Diocese of Wollongong, please check with your parish, school, agency or religious order before ordering as they may be ordering copies on your behalf.
Stand Up and be Counted - Mark your Religion on the 2016 Census
Faith is not in decline around the world. Religious affiliation is growing and faith remains a vital part of the life, culture, thinking and behaviour of individuals in Australia, positively impacting society and culture in many and varied ways.
In our multi-faith and multicultural country, religious freedom is an essential basic human right. People of faith and the organisations that have grown out of our faith traditions make a massive contribution to things such as education, healthcare, aged care and an array of social services in our nation.
It is important that people of faith – those who are regularly connected to organised religion, and those who simply regard themselves as believers – mark the faith they identify with when participating in the National Census.
Saying “yes” to your belief matters because it:
- Allows people of faith, their religious leaders and government representatives to credibly and confidently contribute to the public discourse on a variety of issues such as the economy, education, healthcare and social services.
- Helps to underline the importance of freedom of belief in Australia and also enables leaders to understand the proportional breakdown of beliefs so as to best nurture interfaith harmony that is a feature of our multicultural nation.
- Provides decision makers with vital information for effectively planningfor the future of our nation such as the location of places of worship and the many ‘good works’ done by people of faith across religious traditions.
- Provides a snapshot of who we are, including what we value and what drives us. For so many Australians, their values and reasons for the way they act stem from their religious beliefs.
- Can be used as a future determinant of the allocation of roles and government resourcing and co-funding with faith groups who make a massive contribution to society in education, healthcare and social services.
Stand up and be counted when you participate in the Census this Tuesday 9 August 2016.
Mass for Peace at St Francis Xavier Cathedral - 10:30am Sunday 31 July
At 10:30am on Sunday 31 July 2016 at Saint Francis Xavier Cathedral Wollongong (36 Harbour Street) Fr Ron Peters will celebrate Mass specifically for the intention of world peace. There has been so much sadness of late and the most recent act of horror committed in France in the church of Saint Etienne-du-Rouvray with the murder of the elderly priest, Father Jacques Hamel, brings to our attention again the need we have to pray for peace. All people are most welcome to participate in this Mass.
On Wednesday 3 August at the 12:10pm Mass at the Cathedral, the Mass will again be offered for this special intention. Fr Ron has asked members of the five schools – Holy Spirit College, St Mary Star of the Sea College, Edmund Rice College, St Brigids Catholic Parish Primary School and Good Samaritan Catholic Parish Primary School – to take charge of the various ministries within that Mass. Everyone is encouraged to come along to pray for the gift of peace. You are all most welcome.
Message from Bishop Peter Ingham
It is in moments of terrible evil, such as the murder of my brother priest in France, that we are challenged as a civilisation to choose what kind of people we want to be. Hate for hate will not produce love, violence for violence will not produce peace, nor anger for anger produce self-control.
So today I echo the response of my brother, Archbishop Dominique Lebrun of Rouen, who has left us at World Youth Day in Kraków to join his Archdiocese in mourning:
“The Catholic Church cannot take weapons other than those of prayer and brotherhood among men. I leave here hundreds of young people who are the future of humanity, the true ones. I ask them not to give in to the violence and become apostles of the civilisation of love.”
I invite all people of good will to pray with me for Fr Jacques, his family and the parishioners at St Étienne-du-Rouvray. I also pray for his executioners and join in the cry of our Lord during his Passion, “Father forgive them; for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
Saint Stephen the Protomartyr, Pray for us. +P.I.
- Catholic Faith & Life Formation Calendar | July to November 2016
A Vote for the Voiceless: A statement by the Catholic Bishops of Australia on the election
Australia’s Catholic bishops have called for the voices of the thrown-away people to be heard in the long federal election campaign. The bishops today issued a statement on the 2016 Federal Election, addressed to Catholics and all people of goodwill.
“During the long election campaign there will be much talk about the economy and the need for good economic management at a time of some uncertainty”, the Bishops said. “Both sides of politics will state their economic credentials in a bid to win power.
“The economy of course is important and there does need to be sound management. But, as Pope Francis has pointed out, there is also a danger that the economy can become a kind of false god to which even human beings have to be sacrificed.
“This leads to what the Pope has called the throwaway culture - a culture of over-consumption where all kinds of things are thrown away, wasted, even human beings.
“That is why we bishops want to speak a word as part of this campaign - not in order to push an ideological line or simply to defend the Church's interests but to give a voice to the voiceless and make their faces seen, however briefly in a statement such as this.
“But it is not just individual people who are thrown away. The same can happen to the environment, both social and natural. At the heart of a healthy social environment there is marriage and the family.
“The fact is that economic decisions have been less and less favourable to families in recent years; and it may be that political decisions in the future will undermine further the dignity and uniqueness of marriage as a lifelong union of man and woman. Support for marriage and the family does not look like a big vote-winner, so that even the most basic human institution, upon which the health of a society depends, can become part of the throwaway culture or at best an optional extra.
“Pope Francis has said that the earth too cries out for justice at this time. The natural environment - the land we live on, the air we breathe, the water we drink - even this can become voiceless, so that the earth's cry for justice can go unheard. Now is the time to act, so that the natural environment is able to meet human needs rather than be sacrificed to the god of the economy.”
You can find the full statement, including the bishops’ list of some of the people discarded in our throwaway culture, at www.catholic.org.au/election
The bishops of Australia have traditionally published an election statement.
A Prayer for the Election
Holy God, at the dawn of time you fashioned the world and set it on its course. In the fullness of time your Son took flesh and sowed the seeds of a new order, and day by day your Spirit works to bring to birth your realm of mercy, justice and peace.
We give you thanks for Australia, the Great South Land of the Holy Spirit. In this Spirit we pray for our land and all its people as the nation prepares to elect a new Federal Parliament.
We pray for the women and men who have offered themselves as candidates for public office. May those who are elected set their hearts always on honourable service and the common good.
We pray for the citizens of this much-blessed country, that they may take up their responsibility to vote with wisdom and freedom, and choose what is best for the whole community.
Loving God, to listen to your Son is to be moved to speak up for the unseen and unheard. Give us hearts to heed your Word and mouths to declare your truth. We pray that throughout this election campaign Christian communities will be a voice for the voiceless.
We especially remember refugees and asylum seekers, indigenous peoples, survivors of sexual abuse, those who suffer family violence, those in the womb, the elderly, those suffering mental illness, those suffering addiction, those entrapped in new forms of slavery and the desperately poor beyond our shores.
We hold before you the whole of our world, both social and natural. We pray for a healthy society in which marriage and family life is respected and supported. We pray for the earth our home – the land on which we dwell, the air we breathe, the water we drink – that creation’s cry for healing and care is heard.
Bless all who are elected to serve the nation; may the wisdom and courage of the Holy Spirit guide them to govern for the good of all.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen