Our Lady of the Southern Cross Parish, Brisbane: A vision focused on forming disciples

ProcessionOur Lady of the Southern Cross (OLSC) Parish serves the people of the greater Springfield area of south-west Brisbane. As one of the youngest parishes in one of the fastest-growing areas in Australia, it is home to many young families and is enriched by its diverse multicultural community.

The vision behind every decision

Prior to the development of the parish vision statement, many parishioners could see they were falling into the trap of “doing what parishes have always done” – that is, to simply maintain things without any real desire to bring more people to know and love Jesus.

Through prayerful discernment, the vision statement was promulgated with a clear understanding that every future planning decision would be tested against the words of this statement:

Our Lady of the Southern Cross Parish is a safe community of love that believes in the power of the Holy Spirit to change lives and form disciples who bring people to Jesus.

As a disciple, I commit to grow by worshipping, connecting, learning, serving, giving and making disciples.

Key to the vision statement is that personal commitment to live as a disciple of Jesus. In accepting the vision, each parishioner is called to own their responsibility to contribute to Christ’s mission.

Fr Mauro Conte and Vanessa Comninos are members of the parish leadership team. They suggest that to make the parish vision concrete, they encourage each parishioner to measure their discipleship through the acronym “FACT”: Faithful, Available, Contagious and Teachable. Vanessa describes this further:

Baptism“The visible signs and fruits of a missionary disciple is that they are faithful to the way God has called them to serve and grow God’s kingdom. A disciple is available to serve and their ‘yes’ is reliable. They are contagious in that they are enthusiastic to share the good news and influence others for Jesus. Lastly, a disciple is humble enough to be teachable and learn new skills and methods of ministry.”

Has sticking to the vision been easy?

The development of the vision statement required new strategies to support it. This was challenging as parishioners had to consider different and unfamiliar leadership structures as well as accepting the risks of letting some ministries go, while focusing on others.

“We had a few parishioners challenge the new way of doing parish life,” says Fr Mauro. “From leadership to structure, from vision to strategies – there were times that we struggled, but persistence, faith and visible signs of changed lives carried us through.”

As a new parish, a real positive has been the freedom to think outside the square and to look at what other parishes have done locally and abroad. The use of Divine Renovation and Alpha have been keys in building a community focused on Jesus.

Strategies at the service of achieving the vision

In ascertaining effective ways to achieve their parish vision, five focus areas were defined: worship, serve, learn, connect, make disciples. The parish then ensured there were offerings linked to each of these areas – or “systems”, as they are referred to locally. Parishioners are strongly encouraged to avail themselves of at least one offering in each focus area.  

In determining how these offerings should be delivered there are two guiding principles: Make every process simple and ensure regular communication. The parish website has been designed to be informative and invitational, with an emphasis on the different ways individuals can take the next step in forming a deeper relationship with Christ and the community.

The desire for an excellent communication strategy – one that would reach practising Catholics as well as people in the broader greater Springfield area – has led the parish to engage Lamp Light Media. The intention here, Vanessa suggests, is to “place us on the map as a welcoming Church community”.

Integral to the communications strategy is the development of a customer relationship management (CRM) system to help track and analyse parish activities. This might seem like a corporate approach to running a parish, but it is a practical way for the parish leadership team to be accountable to the parishioners and in-step with the vision statement.

What initiatives are OLSC focusing on?

In deciding what initiatives should be undertaken, the parish checks the idea against the vision statement and ascertains what focus area it belongs to. By doing this, they hope to achieve a balanced approach so all areas of Church life are functioning.

Springfield ParishDuring the last three years the parish has had a strong focus on youth ministry. It will now turn its energy to introducing an exciting and extensive children’s ministry. These initiatives have received the support and expertise of Evangelisation Brisbane.

In supporting families from the local Catholic schools, an overwhelmingly successful event has been Connect Sunday. This gathering focused on fun, faith, food and family. Fr Mauro said the aim of this event was to “help parishioners be more outward focused and for members of the local community to feel a sense of belonging to our parish. This event summarised the hope we have for our parish and the greater Springfield community.”

The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults is linked closely to the Alpha program, providing opportunities for parishioners to grow in their faith as well as being welcoming spaces for those interested in becoming a Catholic.

Finally, in their efforts to reach the unchurched, the parish developed a short YouTube video called “Why ash?”. This video is a gentle call to action for anyone who is trying to understand the point and purpose of their life.

OLSC will be part of the Evangelise conference

If you would like to know more about how the parishioners of OLSC are growing in their efforts to be disciples of Jesus, especially through children’s ministry, please join us at the Evangelise conference. Evangelisation Brisbane and members of the OLSC leadership team will be sharing their challenges and joys as they strive to live their vision in real and practical ways.


Images: Supplied
Words: Sharon Brewer

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