During the total lockdown under levels 3 and 4 due to the coronavirus pandemic, many people wondered what the “new normal” would be when the lockdown is totally lifted.
To this end, the Hamilton diocese pastoral team held a video-conference entitled “Responding with Hope”, inviting international speakers to map out the way forward.
Diocesan event organiser Brigid Conroy, who is part of the pastoral team, said the overall message of the conference was to “re-enter parish life with hope!” as well as “the desire to grow in relationship with Jesus Christ”.
The event was held from May 7-10, the weekend before the Government decided to move the country to level two, while restricting public gatherings to ten people.
“Coming from a business background, and listening to the Prime Minister suggesting that businesses have a ‘re-entry strategy’, I was thinking, what is the Church’s re-entry strategy?” Ms Conroy said. “This was about three weeks prior to the conference, and the idea stuck and kept coming up in my prayer: How is the Church going to respond once we re-open our physical doors once again? How are parishes going to be sowers of peace & joy?”
She said they had never had an online conference before in the diocese, but the Holy Spirit was prodding her to do it.
The conference was a success, gathering 160 people after only nine days of advertising.
“There no doubt would’ve been more people attend had we had a bigger time to advertise, however, I felt that, timing-wise, it needed to be on the weekend that we had it, whilst people were in the last weeks of level 3 of lockdown and starting to look towards the future,” she said. “We had really positive feedback, and pray that lots of fruit comes out of this conference!”
She said the material from the conference had been sent out to parishes and participants. The videos of the speakers are also on the Hamilton diocese website.
The speakers included Hamilton Bishop Stephen Lowe, Catholic Missionary Disciples president and founder Marcel LeJeune, L’Alto Catholic Institute president Tim Glemkowski, House of Broken Loaves founder Tony Vasinda, and Shana Llorando, co-ordinator of young adult ministries in the diocese.
At the question and answer portion of the conference, Bishop Lowe, when asked what a vibrant parish is, said, “ultimately, it’s about a community that lives out their baptism”.
“You want a whole lot of vibrant people, but the recognition is there that not all people will be vibrant. But everyone will be open to people, they need to be excited about their relationship with Jesus and passionate about meeting with people and sharing that life of Christ with them,” he said.
Mr LeJeune, who is from Texas, suggested that parishes and diocese follow Jesus’s mission, vision, values and strategy by making disciples of Jesus who will make disciples of others.
He said Jesus deeply invested in a few men and commissioned those men to make more disciples.
“By deeply investing in a few and teaching them to do the same, they transformed the world within a few generations,” he said.
Mr LeJeune suggested everyone in the parishes and diocese write down a list of people who could be interested in a deeper relationship with God, prayer life and conversion and reach out to them.
“In the next few months, I’d like you to reach out more and more and more to them with phone calls, and maybe meet with them when things open up,” he said.