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The Southern Cross : April 2012
April 2012 Page 13 www.thesoutherncross.org.au The Southern Cross The Southern Cross opinion | FEEDBACK Beauty of Catholicism on show Flexible solutions I read with interest the article by Monsignor David Cappo on the future of the Catholic Church in Australia, which appeared in the March edition of The Southern Cross. I wish to congratulate David Cappo for having used a diocesan window to gaze on the national scene of Catholic realities in Australia. And, somehow, of shifting the attention of readers from the local level onto a national level. Too often we limit our conversations and psychic energy to the solution of local problems, forgetting that they are just part and parcel of a much greater picture. In this regard, it is my personal view that a national Catholic newspaper, professionally produced and distributed, would not only engage a much wider audience but be instrumental in creating a higher degree of purpose and commitment among Australian Catholics. We need to transcend diocesan or state boundaries and be seen as a Church concerned with interests and discussions of a national dimension. It should not surprise anyone that different viewpoints and conclusions are brought out into the open about the state of Australian Catholicism, its ills and possible remedies, its weak as well as its strong points. Depending on the perspective (and the conversations which occur day in and day out through a variety of publications, informal and formal forums, developed in both Australia and overseas), the resulting analysis may vary considerably from one individual to another. The downward trends (..."evidence suggests that the vast majority of youth in Australia see no need to be connected to a life of faith"...) presented by Mgr Cappo are well-known and inconfutable. Recent findings and discussions held in the USA and also here in Australia do not leave too many doubts as to likely outcomes in the future. The data arising from several studies conducted in Europe might be an eye-opener. It might not be so difficult to anticipate conceivable outcomes resulting from increasing impact of secularism into Catholic institutions and homes here in Australia. I do not intend to imply that the survival of the Church in Australia is at stake. Daniel Rops, the French historian, who wrote several volumes on the history of the Church, was also known to possess a sharp sense of humour, which he ascribed to his extensive analysis of historical sources. So often he remarked: the history and life of the Church has been an unending sequence of surprises. When the chips are down and hopes fast disappearing, the bubble will start up again! I personally feel a lot more trust and reliance in the presence of vibrant communities (i.e. small committed communities) which seem to clearly navigate the pervasive ocean of secularism in Australia. When it is suggested that schools should dialogue more with parishes and/or viceversa, I would tend to probe the wisdom and the reasons for supporting such a view, which in fact undermine the principle that dialogue essentially occurs between people at their level, and not between institutions. Schools and parishes are obviously needed and necessary. At the moment, however, the following seem to be the situation in these two institutions. In the vast network of Catholic schools the results obtained in relation to fostering a sense of affiliation to the gospel of Christ and to His Church could be described as less than poor. On the other hand, the parishes are laboring under immense problems, such as drastically reduced number of priests and religious, and, given their decreasing number and aging process, they experience an ever reducing capacity and/or skills to engage in meaningful dialogue with their own people. The ideal sponsored of a "mainstream Catholicism" in Australia, to which migrant communities, for example, should be conforming, is outdated, somehow misleading and counterproductive. The Pastoral Project Office of the Bishops' Conference has statistically indicated that migrant communities are increasingly taking a central position in the life of parish communities, greatly diversifying and moving the Church towards new and unchartered directions, and, as a result, re-positioning the concept and understanding of mainstream Catholicism. I dare suggest that dialogue and the ensuing flexible pastoral solutions, not devoid of pastoral methodology, are one of the highest priorities for the life of the Church in Australia. Unless we want to remain deadlocked in a world which keeps suggesting discussions and dialogue and proposing solutions for sociological realities that are realities no longer! Tony Paganoni Scalabrinian Chicago priest Fr Robert Barron, director of a popular new evangelisation ministry Word on Fire, visited Australia last month for a series of speaking engagements. Unfortunately he didn't come to Adelaide as from all accounts his presentations in Melbourne and Sydney were "standing room only" and very well- received. Word on Fire Catholic Ministries (www.wordonfire. org) is a non-profit organisation which supports Fr Barron's evangelistic endeavors. His programs are broadcast in the United States on television, radio and his website. He writes articles, commentaries and blogs regularly and is called upon frequently to comment on faith and church matters for the secular media. His recent 10-part documentary The Catholicism Project took him to 16 countries and features everything from the early philosophers and saints to baseball and the slums of Calcutta. It is currently being shown on more than 250 US channels. If they are anything like the trailers which feature on his website, they are incredibly rich and emotive with beautiful cinematography and a highly professional touch. Here in Australia some Catholics tend to be a bit weary of the word evangelisation, preferring a more subtle approach, and yet spreading the Gospel and showing people how important it is to our lives is at the very heart of our faith. Glitzy television programs or videos are not necessarily the answer but at a time when the world is fixated with digital broadcasting, social media and online movements like the Kony 2012 campaign, perhaps it is time we Catholics got out of the bunker and started doing our bit to spread the "good news". As Fr Barron was reported in Kairos Magazine as saying, "the Church is going through a dark period but we need to tell our own story. Catholicism is beautiful; it's smart, colourful, rich and textured. It engages the mind and the body and the heart." The fact that many of us take the riches and beauty of Catholicism for granted was brought home to me when I interviewed one of our newest Catholics who was so inspired by her journey to Baptism that she is now studying theology and exploring lay leadership. (See page 9.) Perhaps through new forms of communication such as You Tube, Facebook and other web- based platforms, the Church can reach out to those searching for spiritual meaning in their lives, including those Catholics who have lost their connection with God. The forthcoming national Australian Catholic Media Congress 2012 is a step in the right direction with Monsignor Paul Tighe, from the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, and other media experts sharing their experiences and knowledge with people in the Church who are involved in sharing the timeless messages of the Gospel. For more information or to register for the Congress, visit www.communicating thewordACMC2012.com The highly respected UK Catholic magazine, The Tablet, recently picked up on a story written by Rebecca DiGirolamo for The Southern Cross, February 2012, about parishioners of St Anthony's church at Edwardstown being given a Personal Identification Number or PIN to gain 24-hour access to a chapel in their newly renovated Church. The Tablet reported that the parish administrator, Fr Philip Alstin, had told The Southern Cross that in recent decades many churches had been forced to close doors in the late afternoon or early evening for security reasons. The refurbishment of the church would give parishioners an easily accessible, modern church without compromising their personal security or that of parish property. The cartoon above featured alongside the report, PIN to pray, in The Tablet of February 18, 2012. Printed with permission from The Tablet, and photographer Jonathon Pugh. www.thetablet.co.uk Edwardstown in spotlight