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Parables of mercy provide fitting framework for 2016 Parish Secretaries’ Reflection Day


Parish Secretaries of Perth Archdiocese at the end of the Mass for the 2016 Parish Secretaries’ Reflection Day with organiser of the event, Executive Assistant to Archbishop Costelloe Jennifer Lazberger, (second from right) and Vicar General Fr Peter Whitely (right). Photo: Daniele Foti-Cuzzola

By Marco Ceccarelli

The parables of mercy present in the Gospel of Luke, whose feast coincided with this year’s Archdiocese of Perth Parish Secretaries’ Retreat, provided a perfect framework for a day in which the role of the parish secretary and the meaning of mercy took centre stage.

Held on 18 October, the special day began with a Mass celebrated by Vicar General, Father Peter Whitely, at the historic St John’s Pro Cathedral and continued in St Mary’s Cathedral Parish Centre with a reflection morning facilitated by Catholic Education WA Catechist team leader Pina Ford.

In his homily for the Mass, Fr Whitely emphasised that the parables in Luke’s Gospel: the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son, were at the heart of the Gospel and foundational to reflections on God’s mercy during this Jubilee Year.


Parish Secretaries listen to Fr Peter Whitely’s homily during the Mass for the 2016 Parish Secretaries’ Reflection Day. Fr Whitely emphasised that the parables in Luke’s were foundational to reflections on God’s mercy during this Jubilee Year. Photo: Daniele Foti-Cuzzola

His observations would later be at the very heart of the reflection morning in which Dr Pina Ford guided parish secretaries through the meaning of the term “mercy” and encouraged them to share newly discovered insights on the notion of mercy.

Dr Ford began by drawing attention to a passage from Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, in which the Pope describes his mission of being in the heart of people as not just a part of his life, but as something he cannot uproot from his being without destroying his very self.

“I am a mission on this earth; that is the reason why I am here in this world. We have to regard ourselves as sealed, even branded, by this mission of bringing light, blessing, enlivening, raising up, healing and freeing,” the Pope writes in the paragraph 273 of the Exhortation.

Dr Ford drew a correlation between the Pope’s comment and the role of the parish secretary, stating that the passage contextualised the reflection day for “it frames us as both personal, individual human beings with our own lives and people who have an important role to play in the Church.”

Dr Ford went on to facilitate the reflection day by focusing on God’s relentless and extravagant love towards human beings – a love shown first and foremost through the incarnation and through God’s constant interaction and engagement with mankind.


Catholic Education WA Catechist team leader, Pina Ford, facilitated the reflection morning held at St Mary’s Cathedral Parish Centre. Photo: Daniele Foti-Cuzzola

In the context of mercy, a term derived from the Latin Misericordiae, which when broken down as Miseri – meaning “misery and poverty”, and Cordiae, the root of which is “heart,” suggests “a heart turned towards the poor and those in need,” Dr Ford singled out three parables in Luke’s Gospel.

Using the story of the Woman and the Lost Coin (Lk 15: 8-10), the Parable of the Lost Sheep (Lk 15: 1-7) and Parable of the Prodigal Son (Lk 15: 11-32), all of which tell of a person’s desperate desire to be reunited with something extremely precious, Dr Ford commented on God’s mercy towards humanity, revealed as the love of a father or a mother moved to the very depths out of love for their child.

Speaking to The eRecord, Dr Ford said she was extremely pleased with the large number of parish secretaries who attended the day.

“At the end of the day, many said that they had not previously attended a reflection day and commented on how good it was to have something ‘for themselves’ – to nurture their own faith,” Dr Ford said.

“The day also provided an opportunity for the parish secretaries to network and connect with each other face to face (rather than over the phone). It was an occasion to acknowledge the important role they play in our parish communities. Executive Assistant to Archbishop Costelloe Jennifer Lazberger expressed her appreciation and gratitude.”