Evangelii Gaudium: The Word will have the last word

“What did we do before Evangelii Gaudium?” was a question asked after last Tuesday’s Catholic Mission Colloquium.

Evangelii Gaudium: The Word will have the last word

The response was “What did we do before Pope Francis?” and of course, that is the more important question.


Some fifty leaders from the diocesan community, including teachers, CatholicCare staff, members of councils and parish leadership teams, chaplains and clergy gathered at Bishop Bill’s invitation for “The Francis Effect”, a colloquium offered by Catholic Mission to break open Evangelii Gaudium.


Keynote speaker was Julie Morgan of Australian Catholic University, on “Mission, Governance and Executive Leadership: living and leading the Joy of the Gospel.” With more than a nod to the story of Francis of Assisi, from whom Pope Francis took his papal name, Julie wove together one of the key insights of the exhortation, #24; John’s gospel story of the woman at the well and her own mission experience in India.


#24 proclaims: “Evangelisers...take on the ‘smell of the sheep’ and the sheep are willing to hear their voice.”


Throughout the colloquium, there were many references to “the smell of the sheep”, even “the really smelly sheep”, and reminders that we are all smelly sheep at times!


Practitioners’ presentations ranged from the local to the national, with Bishop Bill Wright; Director of Schools, Ray Collins; CEO Little Company of Mary Healthcare, Mark Doran, and Caritas Australia CEO, Paul O’Callaghan “sharing the mission and vision”. 


Throughout the day, there were reminders of Julie Morgan’s injunction: “Leadership is never about leaving people where they are, always about taking them forward” and encouragement to think in ways that are both practical and visionary:


Which sheep are you dealing with?
What kind of deep change are you leading or hoping to lead at your place?
What could the invitation to abandon complacency in order to be bold and creative mean at my place? 


Bishop Bill, while admitting that his first reading of Evangelii Gaudium “thrilled” him, and sharing some key ‘light bulb moments’, also reminded his audience that “we’re not after a new gospel, we’re after the courage to use the ones we’ve got”.


In that vein, perhaps Catholic Mission’s Lana Turvey, who led the implementation workshop, summed up Evangelii Gaudium as well as anyone when she said, “the ‘Francis effect’ is a permission to be the fullness of church that scripture calls us to be”. 


Photo Gallery (click to enlarge)


Just days before the colloquium, some fifty participants attended a reflective forum on Evangelii Gaudium led by Virginia Bourke rsj under the auspices of the Tenison Woods Education Centre. There’s no doubt that Pope Francis – through his authenticity as much as through his exhortation – has captured the imaginations and hearts of people everywhere.


As I believe Francis would wish, and as respondent at the TWEC forum, Michael O’Connor, observed, “In the long run, the Word will have the last word.”


Article and photos courtesy of Tracey Edstein, Editor of Aurora Magazine.


To learn more or to order a copy of The Francis Effect, please visit www.catholicmission.org.au/educationformation


To read Evangelii Gaudium, please visit http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium.html


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