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PASTORAL REFLECTION ON THE EIGHT THEMES OF ‘OUR FUTURE CHURCH’

Sr Stephanie O'Brien



In his poem ‘Gods grandeur’ the Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins speaks of a world that is tired and a bit seared. ‘Generations have trod, have trod, have trod’ and continues ‘And for all this nature is never spent; there lives the dearest freshness deep down things’. It is this freshness the eight themes hope to nurture and bring to fruition as they provide some guidance for our way forward.


Any reflection on ‘our future Church’ sends us first to Jesus our model and guide. Let us focus for a while on what we see in Him. He did not come with a programme or timetable but was free to respond to situations he met with care and compassion: a grieving widow, bereaved friends, a young couple at their wedding, a woman despised and alone by a well, a boy disturbed by spirits, a blind man… He did not discriminate or judge but treated all with equal respect. He knew how to celebrate and had a passion for a fuller life for everyone. Right from the beginning he worked with others and empowered them ‘Whoever believes in me will do the things that I do, they will do even greater things.’ (John 14:12). All of this had its foundation in a deep relationship with his Father; a relationship which grew as he gave it time and was the source of the great wellspring of love which inspired all his words and actions.


Do our eight themes point to a way of true discipleship, to living as He lived, sharing his values and dreams, putting our hand to the plough and moving forward in joyful hope? We are called to deep faith in and personal relationship with God nurtured by prayer personal and communal. This provides a deep well and clear identity from which we can reach out with hope, courage and confidence.

‘Welcome and include’ calls us to true dialogue with others without discrimination, holding in creative tension the variety and differences. To be committed to honest dialogue is no easy task. This walking together will mean drawing on the gifts of each one and supporting each other in developing skills and readiness to be co-responsible.


We will not be too inward looking but ready to ‘love and serve’ always reaching out to meet needs and seeking to respond as Jesus did, moved as he was by compassion and love. Our journey will not be without His cross. We will meet obstacles, opposition and the need for forgiveness. Roads, walked with others, will sometimes be rough and uphill. We will need the strength and nourishment which comes from knowing we belong and from the sacramental riches our Church has to offer. We will need to be faithful to ongoing reflection and evaluation.


Our time, with wonderful strides in so many areas and with its moral confusion, needs the values offered by Christianity. We are all called to be mystics and prophets; people with hearts big enough to care and ready to join forces with those in dialogue with the big issues of our time. Only this will make our claim to be Christian recognizable. Only this will enable us to listen for and draw forth the ‘dearest freshness deep down’


Hopkins ends with ‘because the Holy Ghost over the bent world broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings’. May the themes put before us be a springboard from which we can take flight knowing this same Holy Spirit still broods, lives within us all and is ever ready to guide and inspire.

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