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Launch of Diocesan Pastoral Plan

29 June, 2023

The Diocesan Pastoral Plan, which was launched  at the Diocesan Festival recently, comes after many years of listening, discerning, reading and writing.  It will be implemented across the diocese over the coming months with Executive Officer – Mission, Joy Philippi, travelling with Bishop Michael as he meets with Parish Pastoral and Finance Councils.

Below is a little about the plan taken from the presentation given by Mrs Vicki Heggie (Diocesan Pastoral Council member, leader of the Plan writing group and parishioner of the South Mackay cluster). It is a five year plan that gives pastoral direction to all that we undertake.

You can find a copy of the plan (with resources to come), here:

 How wonderful to have so many people from across our vast diocese come together for the launch of our Diocesan Pastoral Plan, the focus of our festival gathering over the next 24 hours.  It has been a long and thorough process but the Diocesan Pastoral Council is excited to share a plan that will offer support and direction for the years ahead-a plan characterised by flexibility, inclusivity and pastoral ministry. Of course, there other benefits in our gathering this way and at this time.

We come together significantly on this feast of Pentecost. As you know, Pentecost celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the early Church and this event ushered in a new era for the people of God.  The parallel is that the revised and renewed plan which we present today will usher in a new era for the people of the diocese of Rockhampton. We gather as a diocesan family to give thanks for the gift of the Holy Spirit, the gift of God’s Law old and new and the gift of the priorities of our diocesan plan, which will nurture and give life to all across the diocese who seek guidance and wisdom from it.

In launching the plan, we wanted very much to share the history of its development.

Step 1: Bishop Michael became our bishop in 2014 and soon after being appointed, he began the process of listening to the people of the diocese. Surprised by, but not to be hindered by the vastness of the diocese, he visited the various parish communities in regions near and far, listening to the challenges, the experiences, the successes and the cries for help. And so the seed was planted for renewing and building on the priorities of the existing plan to address current issues.

Step 2: The formal process began in 2017 when Bishop Michael approached Sr Noreen Dunne to lead part 1 of the listening phase in every region. Again Bishop Michael travelled the length and breadth of the diocese. Parishioners gathered in each region to reflect on the status quo in their community-what was working well and what were the challenges? Sr Noreen led the process and was assisted by key people in each region.

Step 3: In 2018-regional assemblies formed part 2 of the listening phase with Sr Noreen continuing to oversee the process, but with the assistance of Fr Kevin Stuart. Bishop Michael attended all of these to address the groups, to answer questions and importantly to be present to his people at this important time of listening-hearing firsthand what his people were saying. Data was collected and collated and categorised into issues pertaining to the local, regional and global Church.

Step 4: Following the regional assemblies, Bishop Michael created the Diocesan Assembly Taskforce to plan the Assembly. Soon after he appointed Joy Philippi as Pastoral Projects Officer in 2019 and Joy set about organising the Diocesan Assembly which occurred in March the same year. The Bishop chose Shane Dwyer, who at the time was the Director for the National Centre for Evangelisation, to facilitate the process for the Diocesan Assembly. Data from the listening phases at the regional level was shared and there was further discussion and consideration given to a way forward.

Step 5: Following the Diocesan Assembly 9 key areas of focus were identified and the Bishop called for volunteers from across the diocese to form task groups to investigate and address these areas and to prepare reports. The topics are listed in the plan and the reports will be available as links in the on-line version of the plan on the diocesan website

Step 6: Simultaneously, Bishop Michael set about forming Regional Pastoral Councils and ultimately the Diocesan Pastoral Council. The Regional Pastoral Council to support the parishes within each region and the Diocesan Pastoral Council to support him in matters at the diocesan level. Both Councils would serve to be important links for the Bishop with people and issues across the diocese.

Step 7: Once the task group reports were finalised they were presented to the DPC. A committee was formed to begin the process of developing a new pastoral plan for the diocese. This was always going to be the major task of the newly formed Diocesan Council. This was a very thorough process and the committee drew heavily on the material gathered and presented to the DPC in those 9 reports.

In his foreword, Bishop Michael says, and I quote “this pastoral plan is a distillation of the thoughts and hope for the Mission of Christ and his disciples in this Diocese, co-responsible for the Mission”. The focus of our plan is Mission and co-responsibility for that mission. That is, we the people of the diocese of Rockhampton, alongside the clergy and our Bishop, are responsible for the mission of our Church at local, regional and diocesan levels. This plan encourages us to contribute, to get involved, to connect with one another, to take responsibility for what happens…. We should not be taking a back seat but looking for ways to contribute…..

You’ll see shortly when we look at the priorities specifically, it’s a three-fold mission featuring evangelisation, co-responsibility and celebration.

The plan contains:

  • the Bishop’s foreword, ending with a blessing for the work we do,
  • an introduction, summarising the process and intention of the plan,
  • a snapshot of the Diocese Now, including a map of the diocese and acknowledgement of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander brothers and sisters
  • and most importantly the priorities categorised into the 3 areas Evangelisation and Mission, Co-responsibility and Mission and Celebration and Mission.

The plan concludes with a Call to Action encouraging us all to evangelise, to be co-responsible and to celebrate together.

In determining the priorities of evangelisation, co-responsibility and celebration we reflected on the Youth Ministry model of Belonging, Becoming and Transforming. Why are we doing this, How do we achieve it and What do we want to become.

Firstly, Evangelisation and Mission…why are we doing this? We belong to a community with a shared belief in God. We belong to the wider diocesan family. We belong so therefore we strive to live out our baptismal call which challenges us to evangelise, to spread the message of Jesus, to be disciples of Jesus.

Secondly Co-responsibility and Mission….how do we achieve this? Co-responsibility demands a change in mindset especially concerning the laity to be responsible for the mission of the Church at all levels-local, regional and diocesan and as I said a little while ago this is about clergy and laity working together.

Thirdly Celebration and Mission …what do we want to become? We want to address the challenges and transform the Church. We want to make it better. We want to be a Church for everyone. Our celebrations particularly that of the eucharist need to keep the enthusiasm and the energy of individuals alive.

When you see the priorities spelled out in the plan you’ll see that they relate to these three areas of evangelisation, co-responsibility and celebration.

 Throughout the process we were informed by our diocesan vision and during our deliberations we remained mindful of the lived example of Jesus. We reflected on the previous plan and acknowledge the wisdom it contained and the inspiration we gained from it. There are many similarities-it provided a foundation and a starting point for the formation of the new plan.

It’s interesting to note that even before the plan was completed, data from the listening phases was used also to contribute to our diocesan response and input to both the Plenary Council and the Synod.

The plan reflects the breadth and diversity of our diocese, its geographical vastness and the diversity of cultures and backgrounds of the people who make up its communities. It takes into account the isolation of many in our diocese and the differences in needs, in hopes and in dreams.

The plan is a 5 year plan but we present it to you as a living document, one that will change and grow over time, responding to inevitable and ongoing changes and challenges in Church life.

We present it to you today as a brochure but it will, shortly-in the next week or so, be available to all as a document on-line. The QR code on the back will take you directly to the web version. It will include links containing supporting and relevant documents- for example- the 9 task group reports, the Diocesan Reconciliation Plan, various recent encyclicals, and other papal documents, The Light From the Southern Cross…and others. We anticipate and intend that this will be updated regularly.

It is important to remember that this plan is a guide to pastoral ministry in your parish and region offering support and direction. The priorities of the plan will be implemented differently in different areas across the diocese as you respond to your particular circumstances-your needs, issues, challenges, hopes and dreams.

The plan calls for action, planning and accountability. This will be achieved with the help of parish pastoral councils or personnel or leadership groups whatever is relevant to your area, and the support she will provide in her role as executive officer mission working and meeting with these people or groups of people.

I’d like take this opportunity to acknowledge the work and commitment of the committee members, Joy, Trish and Bernadine, the DPC who became our sounding board and various people who were consulted to polish and present the plan. The plan endured many drafts. There was a great deal of consultation, toing and froing to make sure the plan reflected the questions, the needs and the hopes and dreams of 3500 parishioners who contributed to the process from the beginning of the listening phase.