Parish stories: St Clement of Rome Parish, Bulleen

Friday 29 November 2019

Cecilia Francisco-Tan  
“Where there is need, there is love owing.”
- William Tyndale (c. 1494–1536).

With Mgr Franco Cavarra as the Parish Priest, the people of St Clement of Rome have consciously adopted and attempted to live by this mantra attributed to William Tyndale, who is credited with the English translation of the Bible, from the original Greek and Hebrew texts.

Conscious attention to this simple aphorism, as it applies to various aspects of parish life, from carefully delivered homilies to the way we plan our liturgies, build community, friendships, develop our understanding of God, and apply acute mindfulness towards the pastoral needs of individuals and groups in real ways have borne fruit.
Tyndale’s oft-repeated statement in the parish context encapsulates Jesus’s Commandment to love.
 Parish Intergenerational Outreach to the Homeless
This attention to the needs of the least, the lost and the last, was the groundwork for the parish’s serious commitment to the call of Plenary 2020 and its implications for individual and collective renewal, growth and transformation in situ. The governing parish principle is based on the belief that if the Church is to change, it must begin where the people are.
Hearing and engaging with the Spirit’s call to be a ‘Christ Centred Church’ has given new energy to the way people at St Clement of Rome parish can live more authentically the Christ-centred lives available to all. Serious engagement with the questions for discernment vis-à-vis Tyndale’s aphorism continues to provide good opportunities for an examination of consciousness in terms of how we have or have not lived up to God’s call as members of a faith community in Bulleen, and the wider Australian Church.
Parish feast day lunch and art exhibition 
Not all parishioners chose to engage in the Plenary 2020 process. Some honest responses included: “Have we not done this renewal thing before?” “We are too old! We have done our part. Time for the young people to do theirs,” and “Can we afford the financial outlay?” 
Through the conviction of a creative few, who took up the challenge, and together with the whole congregation praying the Plenary prayer week after week and through regular communication to all the people, a sense of a new spring has slowly but surely emerged, evident to those willing to see the fruits.
The initiatives are many and here are some worth sharing.

The foundational grounding of theological transformation in the parish has been through a solid, ongoing Scriptural Studies Program. The fortnightly and sometimes weekly sessions during Advent and Lent take place throughout the year. We are now in our fourth cycle, having completed studies in the Synoptic Gospels and now moving on to Paul’s letters to the Corinthians.
The RCIA process is tied to the Scripture Studies Program as much as is possible. Not confined to merely inquirers or catechumens, the RCIA provides a refresher for those with questions about how to authentically live our baptismal life. The focus of our programs is always in relation to understanding God’s Word, the sacraments, worship and all aspects of faith as they apply to our lived, contextualized experiences.
A 93-year-old Irish gentleman baptized as a wee bub in Ireland, who faithfully attends both the Scripture and RCIA sessions, is symbolic of the hunger and need to discover new insights and understanding about the Catholic faith at every stage of our lives. Learning and discovery are parish values if truth be told. To that extent, significant investment towards the theological growth of people is a priority.

The Intergenerational Outreach Program is a new and exciting initiative.
There are plans to link this with a newly formed Youth Ministry. In Advent, the Parish will make a commitment to being a Dementia Aware and Friendly Parish.
The vision is to link all areas of Parish life into a web of connectivity and friendship through focussing on a major need in the community extending beyond the Parish walls.
The work is slow, but the people under the new and wise leadership of the Pastoral Council and through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, are ready to mend the threads of the web that is the Parish faith community, where broken, and to strengthen and build new ones where the needs reveal themselves.
The image of the spider’s web and the quote from Charlotte’s Web are appropriate and best sum up life currently at St Clement of Rome:

A spider's web is stronger than it looks. Although it is made of thin, delicate strands, the web is not easily broken. However, a web gets torn every day by the insects that kick around in it, and a spider must rebuild it when it gets full of holes.
― E.B. White, Charlotte's Web

Cecilia Francisco-Tan is Pastoral Associate at St Clement of Rome Parish, Bulleen.
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