Good things are happening down under! Word from the Archdiocese of Melbourne, Australia:
By Clara Geoghegan
Called and Gifted Workshops help parishes and individuals refocus their lives by helping them discover God’s plan for their lives and their community. A workshop hosted by the parishes of Holy Spirit, Ringwood and St Gerard and St Anne Park Orchards/Warrandyte and invitations to attend were also extended to neighbouring parishes. The weekend attracted 85 participants and was enormously successful in many ways.
One participant from a neighbouring parish was Melanie Williams from St John’s Mitcham. Melanie expressed her thanks for the workshop on the weekend describing it as “the best thing I have attended in the Church in 20 years”. When contacted for this article she said that when she offered that compliment she had not yet begun to experience the full fruits of the weekend.
“The workshop proved to be transformative for me in the space of a few weeks. It was a paradigm shift – a real awakening,” she said.
“What struck me from the beginning was that this was a structured program that let us through a process that involved deep thinking and a challenge to growth,” said Melanie. “It was a framework to help find out more deeply who you are. It was a deep personal focus which lead to exploring self and how to be more yourself for the sake of others. This was deeply revelatory.”
The Called and Gifted Workshop helps participants discover the spiritual gifts they receive at Baptism and Confirmation which are given so that we can be a source of God’s providence to others.
For Melanie, not only did the workshop affirm her in her chosen professional field where she finds great joy in using her gifts of knowledge and wisdom, but it has given a different focus to her home life also. Melanie’s husband has been recovering fromC cancer and during his recovery period, and as part of his recovery, he has been facilitating an online writers’ group for fellow cancer sufferers.
Melanie was feeling that given his stage of recovery, her husband had an obligation to look at returning to part-time work and assist in supporting the family. However, after the workshop she saw the situation in a new light. She perceived that her husband had a real gift in the work he was doing with this writers’ group and she had discerned a gift of ‘helps’. Helps is a gift where one is able to use one’s gifts to help another achieve their potential. Melanie saw that she could use this gift to assist her husband achieve his potential as a writer and facilitator. Despite some financial concerns, she decided to go ahead. Her husband has not returned to work and Melanie says that, quite remarkably, they have managed financially and achieved a new freedom through trusting in God’s providence and that they have made the right choices.
The workshop has also borne fruit for the host parishes. Lorraine McCarthy, pastoral associate at St Gerard & St Anne Park Orchards/Warrandyte explains that the parish of Holy Spirit, North Ringwood and the Parish of St Gerard and St Anne Park Orchards/Warrandyte, are partnered parishes who share a priest and have a combined leadership team. The two parishes have, over recent years, worked intensely on evangelising and forming our people through Alpha courses, Scripture groups and prayer/retreat opportunities. During this time they formed a new parish pastoral council in each parish.
“We felt that we needed something which would move our people 'out' into a more intentional living of their Gospel call to be 'Apostles' – both in our parishes and out in the world of our daily lives and work,” explained Lorraine, “and the Called and Gifted Workshop certainly helped us achieve this.”
In the months before the workshop, invitations were sent to both parish pastoral councils, to everyone on liturgy rosters and to everyone who had taken part in the faith formation opportunities in recent years. There was a huge response, and 85 people attended the workshop weekend.
The weekend provided an opportunity to meet together and to share meals and friendship. Many commented that they had met fellow parishioners for the first time and that this was a significant outcome of the workshop for them.
“The weekend provided an opportunity to focus together on what it means to be a Catholic lay person today,” reflected Lorraine. “We were encouraged to reflect on the fullness of who we have been created to be and to make the choice to deeply live our calling in our life circumstances. Through stories and examples we were taught that even the most ordinary person has gifts that God wants to give to the world through us. A challenging thought!”
“The weekend also gave us an opportunity to challenge our understanding of our parish’s mission. “ she said. “While we are parishes with strong community and wonderful caring for each other, we are also called to be places of formation for mission. We are called to equip each other to go and bring Christ to the world around us in our community, sporting groups and workplaces.”
“The Called and Gifted Workshop has given us a 'paradigm' shift in our understanding of ourselves and of our parishes. The practical implications of this shift will reverberate in both our Parish and our personal lives for a long time to come.”
The next Called and Gifted Workshop will be 17 and 18 June at All Saints, Fitzroy. To host a workshop in your parish, call 9926 5687 or email
Clara Geoghegan is the Called and Gifted co-ordinator at Archbishops Office for Evangelisation in Melbourne.