The Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle is inviting the local community to gather with Bishop Bill Wright for prayers of healing and hope in one of six locations around the diocese this Lent. The Year of Grace, a year when Catholics have been invited by the Bishops to contemplate Christ in the hope that we will be able to ‘start afresh from Christ’, will inform these prayer gatherings, as will the diocese’s very troubled history regarding the sexual abuse of children.
Diocesan Co-ordinator for The Year of Grace, Sr Louise Gannon rsj, says that Lenten Liturgies of Healing and Hope began five years ago and involve the Bishop journeying through the diocese to pray with the people "about our need for healing and the hope that sustains us, even in the face of our failure".
Throughout the Year of Grace, across the nation, we have been praying that through our contemplation of Christ, ‘the church may be transformed, our relationships healed and our nation grow in compassion and justice’. This prayer has been an important starting point in organising the Lenten prayer gatherings. “We are taking the impetus of the Year of Grace and tailoring it to fit our special needs as a diocese,” Sr Louise said. “We recognise with the history of sexual abuse in this diocese, we have a need to pray together and ritualise our need for healing and, to hold at the centre of that, the hope we have in Christ. We know our God to be a God of great forgiveness and great love and we are opening ourselves up to that.”
All are welcome to the Lenten prayer gatherings which will be held in halls, rather than churches, in an effort to create a relaxed and welcoming environment for all who wish to come.
“It is hoped that this format will encourage all people to feel welcome and comfortable, including those who might not go to Church, or those who have not done so for some time,” Sr Louise said.
Sr Louise also said the prayer gatherings of healing and hope will not just focus on the historic child sexual abuse within the diocese.
“This is a very significant and public aspect of our brokenness as a Church and in the context of the Year of Grace, the NSW Special Commission of Inquiry and the Royal Commission we would not have a prayer focused on healing without naming it as such. However it is not the only aspect of our life that is broken. Gazing on the face of Christ in this Year of Grace opens us to be more aware of many ways in which we need to be healed and transformed. It also gives us the courage and strength to name those realities. We are endeavouring to learn from the mistakes of our past and to change – to start afresh from Christ. This is the central belief of Christian faith; that in the very darkest places and experiences God acts to bring new life and to transform. This is the hope that sustains us,” Sr Louise said.
The details of the Year of Grace Lenten prayer gatherings of healing and hope are as follows:
Friday 22 February - St Joseph’s Hall, 140 Wangi Road, Toronto
Friday 1 March - St James’ Primary School Hall, Skellatar Stock Route, Muswellbrook
Friday 8 March - The Therry Centre, New England Highway, East Maitland
Friday 15 March - St Stephen’s Parish Centre, Witt Street, Tea Gardens
Friday 22 March - St James’ Primary School Hall, Vista Parade, Kotara
All commence at 7.00pm.
MEDIA ENQUIRIES: For more information regarding the Lenten prayer gatherings, please contact Communications Manager, Emma Blackford, on (02) 4979 1183 or 0419 263 901.