Read the article 'St Teresa of Calcutta Parish Bulletin: What would a ‘parish of mercy’ look like?' and answer the following questions. Then share your answers in pairs, small groups or in a classroom discussion.
1. Why do you think the writer chose to call the parish ‘St Theresa of Calcutta’. Was St Mother Theresa a person of Mercy?
2. Google Mother Theresa of Calcutta. What can you find out about her life? Why did she choose to work amongst the poorest of the poor in India? Are there any of her sisters in your city or town? If so what sort of work do they do in a city or town that seems so much more affluent than the slums she worked in in India?
3. If Jesus came back today and attended Mass on Sunday in your parish, what would he see in your Church bulletin? Is your parish involved with the youth, the elderly and migrants or refugees?
4. Have a discussion in groups about how you could approach your parish priest to become involved in the work of your parish. What could you do to change things for the better in your parish? Could you start something new that would be a help to people who are new to your parish, especially the young people? New people will be coming into your parishes in the New Year either to attend University or TAFE for the first time. What could you do to orientate them to the parish and the neighbourhood?
1. After a discussion in the classroom, draw up a survey that could be handed out at Mass on Sunday. Find out what your parish wants. What would they be interested in being involved in? What do you think is lacking in your parish? Are all the age groups being catered for? Once you have a list of questions for your survey ask your parish priest if it could be handed out at Mass and to ask people to fill it out before they leave.
2. Once you have collated the answers, get together with your friends from the parish to see what you may be able to do to fill at least some of the gaps in your parish. It may be as simple as a coffee shop after Mass. For example, you may need to get a small coffee machine from a company for free so long as you buy the pods from their company. You will need to find out if the parish is prepared to pay for the first lot of coffee or hot chocolate pods. Look on the internet for information about these machines. Discuss with the parish council. Once you have permission decorate a corner of your parish hall – set up some small tables and chairs – charge a small fee for the coffee and you have started something new in your parish.
3. Ask the parish (through the bulletin) to donate any old spectacles (short-sighted, long-sighted and dark glasses) then contact your local Lions Club. Recycle 4 Sight Australia has collected thousands of pairs of used spectacles, sunglasses, new frames and other equipment. The program distributes regraded spectacles to many parts of the world to Lions Clubs, Rotary Clubs and other humanitarian organisations for distribution to poor people in need, at no expense or obligation on the recipient. See www.lionsclubs.org.au/activities/ for more information.
For younger students
1. Read the parish bulletin to the younger children and then ask them what programs their parish may have that would make it a parish of mercy. They may need to be reminded of what Mercy means.
2. Ask the children what they would like to see happen in their parish? What could they do with their parents to make life easier for any new young families who arrive in the parish?
3. With the help of their parents, they could collect toys for St Vincent de Paul to hand out at Christmas time for those less fortunate than themselves. They could decorate a large box and get a notice put in their church bulletin perhaps with some drawings to accompany the notice.
For further learning
1. What do you think makes up a merciful parish?
2. Read our article ‘The recipe for a thriving parish’. In what ways is a thriving parish also a merciful parish? Why is mercy an important ingredient to a thriving parish?
3. Imagine moving to a new parish - a parish of mercy.
a. How would parishioners treat you and each other? How would the parish priest and other religious associated with the parish care for community members? What would Mass be like? What activities would you participate in?
b. Create a collage showing what a church needs to become a parish of mercy.
On a poster board or a piece of paper, you can use pictures images, symbols and words to show what your parish of mercy would look like!