The Apostolic Letter of Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, directly challenges us as a parish to live as a community of love, not for ourselves, but for the world. So, who are we? We are the parish community formed around the Cathedral - the seat of the Archbishop Christopher, and the centre of the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn - and the local church of St. Peter Chanel’s in Yarralumla. The Cathedral and Parish Community are administered by Monsignor John Woods and the work of the parish is supported by Assistant Priests Fr. James Onoja and Fr. Peter L’Estrange S.J. Father Peter cares for the liturgical life of St. Peter Chanel’s. The Parish is further supported by the Parish Pastoral Council and the Parish Team.
As a parish, we are gathered together in Christ. Our mission is to evangelise - to give witness to the Good News of the Gospel by word and deed. Four of the basic elements of this mission may be described as: proclaiming the good news of God’s love throughout the world inviting more and more people into the community of disciples sanctifying by encouraging the whole community of faith to grow in holiness, especially as a worshipping community through intimate connectedness with the source and summit of the Christian Life, the Eucharist. transforming the world until justice, love and peace prevail. In our Parish, we participate in the mission of God and the church in a variety of ways This mission is overseen on behalf of the parish by the Parish Pastoral Council, who support and sustain the work of the clergy by their willingness to provide their skills, advice and ability to extend the apostolic life of the community they serve.
The vision of the whole parish of St. Christopher’s rests in the names of the names of its mass centres. Traditionally, St. Christopher was one who carried Christ, as did St. Peter Chanel, the Marist missionary and first martyr of Oceania, who was murdered on the island of Futuna in 1841. The dedication of both churches focuses us on the missionary task we have as a community of faith, and bind us to our call of making visible the healing and hope of the Gospel in our lives and in all that we do.
Archbishop Christopher encourages us to read the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis “The Joy of Love” (Amoris Laetitia), ‘On Love in the Family’, his much anticipated response to the 2014 and 2015 Synods on the Family. Copies of the document will be available mid-May from the Catholic Bookshop, Favier House, 51 Cooyong St., Braddon. Meanwhile, you can access the document at https://www.catholic.org.au/synod-2015/blog
The matters addressed by Pope Francis are especially relevant to our upcoming Canberra Deanery Assembly, ‘Mercy in Marriage and Family Life’, St Clare’s College, Friday night – Saturday, 12-13 August. Further details will follow but for now I encourage you to claim the date. The Assembly will build on the very well received February 2015 Archdiocesan Assembly on Marriage and the Family. Since then we have entered the Jubilee Year of Mercy and we now have the Pope’s Apostolic Exhortation. Each of the five Deanery Assemblies around the Archdiocese will have a prayerful and pastoral focus. Archbishop Christopher is attending each Assembly.
“No family drops down from heaven perfectly formed; families need constantly to grow and mature in the ability to love . . . All of us are called to keep striving towards something greater than ourselves and our families, and every family must feel this constant impulse. Let us make this journey as families, let us keep walking together. (…) May we never lose heart because of our limitations, or ever stop seeking that fullness of love and communion which God holds out before us” (AL 325).
To be family is to have a particular care for those doing it tough. In our need, may we know the balm of God’s merciful embrace.
The current issue of same-sex marriage and the proposal to change the basic definition of marriage in Australia raises issues that are central to a society seeking maturity.
We all know and love same-sex attracted people in our families, parishes and communities. They do feel particularly vulnerable in the current national discussions. Our respect and care reaches out to them as always.
That been said, traditional marriage must be considered one of the great treasures of humanity. Clearly, Christianity has given it a particular sacramental understanding. Yet, the exclusive love sharing of a man and a woman that is open to the possibility of giving life to children has been a central benchmark of healthy societies over millennia.
St John Paul II often wrote that society comes through the family. Strengthening society means strengthening marriage and families. How can changing the basic and enduring definition of marriage assist a strong society?
Several recent Popes have also made the parallel with environmental ecology and human ecology. They rightly see their inter-connection.
For example, why be strong on protecting the natural beauties of Australia but less so on protecting proven human beauties, like traditional marriage?
Indeed, we seem to be strong on protecting the environment but seemingly more ready to endanger the delicate ecology of human relationships in redefining marriage. Subjective considerations are significant but must be balanced carefully with objective truths about the value of traditional marriage and its links with the flourishing of society.
Clearly, too, if overseas examples are a guide, many countries that have permitted same-sex marriage are now encountering all sorts of challenges regarding abuses to the fundamental rights of religious freedom and speech. Various ideologies can be asserted in a subtle manner as the new “right”. Pope Francis warns us about the advance of an “ideological colonisation” in our world.
Let us do all we can to protect traditional marriage from any legal redefinition. Make sure you vote!