All Saints Parish Meeting
Father Daniel O'Leary
by Mary Richardson
Venue: Saint Joseph's R.C. High School
Date: Friday 5th February 2010

In response to an ardent request from Father John Kelly a large, anticipatory crowd gathered in Saint Joseph's High School, to welcome and listen to Father Daniel O'Leary. The crowd, comprising of a range of age and gender, was well represented with parishioners from all six of our communities.

Father Daniel began by calling on the Holy Spirit to lead, guide and inspire people in their thoughts and actions, as well as to bring joy into all our lives.

We were reminded that the amalgamation of six communities into one parish should be an exciting and simulating time; the new life of a parish can only be achieved through rebirth, a time of anguish and pain to be followed by overwhelming love and joy. The stumbling blocks that thwart our progress and impede our way can be transformed into the stepping-stones that lead us safely to a place of fulfilment and grace.

Father Daniel spoke of the struggle that the Western Church is experiencing, the defilement that has encroached upon the perfect beauty of our religion. He told us that such defilements are ugly and yet the image of Christ at Calvary is ugly, but the revulsion of this image leads us to the knowledge and magnificence of God's perfect love. To develop our own parish during these troubled times, we were told, depends upon a 'vision of the heart' created by people opening their hearts and nurturing a shared vision for the future.

To emphasise the need for this 'vision of the heart' Father Daniel told the story of two men each working upon building a huge wall. The first man, when asked what he was doing, spoke of the back breaking work that was making his life miserable, laying endless brick, after endless brick. He hated his job. When the second man was questioned he spoke with joy of the task he was undertaking, creating a Cathedral. He spoke of the baptisms and wedding that would happen here in the future, the glorious windows that would adorn the wall he is building - this man had a vision of what would be, he felt privileged to have the opportunity to work upon this wall, to be a part of God's work on earth.

Our work of building a deep, strong parish needs to be led by such a vision, we need to fan the flames of the fire that will burn more brightly within us, around us and through us. We are co-creators with God; we are God's hands and feet, his voice and ears in the world. Father Daniel reminded us of the beautiful prayer of St Theresa:

Christ has no body now on earth, but yours. No hands, no feet but yours.

We will have failures, we are only human, but failure is a necessary part of growth, we learn from our mistakes. Failure is the way to success, as sin is the way to grace.

Father Daniel called people to consider that in the current world climate, with ever decreasing numbers of clergy, change will need to come from within the laity, from amongst ourselves. He evoked the words of the rite of baptism wherein those being baptised are proclaimed to be priests and priestesses, also the plea of Pope John Paul II who called for "heralds of the Gospel who are experts in humanity, who have a profound knowledge of the heart of present-day man, participating in his joys and hopes, anguish and sadness, and who are at the same time contemplatives in love with God."

As present-day Catholics we need to find the church in our everyday lives, in how we live, in our workplace, in our homes, in our bedrooms, in how we raise our children, the neighbours we help, the heartache and suffering we alleviate. Holiness and beauty can be found in the most mundane of things, the most ordinary of events. Speak to us of God, the cherry tree was asked: the cherry tree blossomed. Like this tree God can pull the best out of us, if we have the grace to allow Him.

Through Jesus' own words, Father Daniel encouraged us that we have the ability to work miracles and more:

I tell you most solemnly, whoever believes in me will perform the same works as I do myself, he will perform even greater works, because I am going to the Father. John14:12

Therefore we are called to use our combined talents to create a universal vision for the development and future of our parish. We are called to see God in all we love and to realise that all love is from God; all we need to do is surrender ourselves to that unconditional love. All too often we make excuses, our fears holding us back, but our fears are surely unfounded, Jesus died to release us from our fears and our sins. Free of this fear we are enabled to be creative, to express ourselves, to be positive about our hopes, to work together to realise our hopes and possibilities.

Resentment and the inability to forgive and forget hinders the route to progress like a tree blocking the road. It is up to individuals to travel the way of the positive or the paranoid. Like the transubstantiation of bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus, we need to transform our hearts and as a subsequence our minds. With a passion Father Daniel advocated the need to change, because what we don't transform we transmit.

Father Daniel ended his lecture by stressing the need for the Parish, for it's people to claim the moment, a challenge handed to us all to develop our parish in memory of the past, mindful of the present, but ever thoughtful to the future.

Following the lecture Father Daniel opened the floor to questions and the sharing of stories. Several parishioners gladly shared experiences and life changing moments.

The meeting was billed as the Parish Project Launch, although no mention of this was made at the meeting, it certainly gave the people present cause for thought and will hopefully ignite and inspire further development and progress within our communities and Parish.

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