Awakening the Hope we Share was the theme for the second Kildare Ministries conference, held at Brigidine College, St Ives and at St Joseph’s Retreat Centre, Baulkham Hills during 1-3 August 2018.The theme allowed us to reflect upon the current church as well as explore the role of the laity in engaging with the renewal agenda. Seventy-one delegates from every ministry and from every level of governance and leadership were present and the support of the Brigidine and Presentation Sisters was also strongly felt.
As a community of people across Australia we have so few opportunities to share life together over a few days. So few opportunities to reflect on belonging to a new body in the Church. We may ask: why begin new bodies in the church? In particular why begin a new body in the twenty first century Church which is experiencing crisis and diminishment, challenge and self-doubt? And the answer: Because that is what we seemed communally called to do.
Kildare Ministries is largely made up of lay people. It is not clerical but it is part of the world wide communion of the Catholic Church. It is an organisation built on Jesus’ vision of a discipleship of equals, of the reign of God breaking in on the world, and founded on the values of compassion and justice, love and forgiveness, peace and hope. It is not only about the maintenance of ministries. It is about living by values which are challenging, as it was when Jesus first spoke of this new Kingdom of God. Jesus modelled the power of living these values and people witnessed the transforming impact this had. It is no less powerful today when people in Kildare Ministries witness to those same gospel values, and we believe that we are all called to do that in classrooms, staffrooms, offices, playgrounds, Boards, Stewardship Councils and with people in need and indeed all who cross our paths.
Within this context Fr Frank Brennan opened the conference with an inspiring conversation about the current state of play between the institutional church and our interaction and engagement with it. He challenged us to respond to injustices and to ‘walk a mile in the shoes of the other’. He also encouraged us to work together as a new voice in the church and to examine on ‘what side of the river’ we view the world.
Dr Massimo Faggioli spent most of the second day with us and delivered well researched, relevant and contemporary analysis of the church vis-à-vis society. Session one was titled: The influence of the Laity on Mission Hope and the Pope. Here, Dr Faggioli outlined the theology of the laity, drawing on Pope Francis’ description of the church as bruised, hurting and dirty who calls for a missionary church and one that sees the world through the eyes of the poor. This led into Session 2 titled: Emerging Authority of the Laity in which we explored Laudato Si’ within the framework of a new spirituality and consciousness being awakened through the cracks evident in the institutional church.
Both presenters provided rich material to work with, process and respond to. The delegates were provided with opportunities to share their learning and inspirations and reflect upon the primary spirit stirring within them. We experienced warmth and friendship at the conference and we attempted to live community and explore our sense of mutuality and genuine welcome to all. We experienced the hallmarks of our community, of any genuine Christian group.
The real expression of our faith belief is how we live as a community. Paul writes to the early Christians: Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. (Ephesians 4:2) This is where we were as we gathered, we listened, we responded, and now we went back with a deeper understanding of our collective story as Kildare Ministries people with hope awakened in us for a renewed church.
Executive Director Kildare Ministries