"I just think something happened that was very fruitful and I hope we can build on it." That was the view of Father Tim Buckley, parish priest of Our Lady of the Annunciation (Bishop Eton), Childwall and its neighbour St Mary’s, Woolton after the twin parishes held an awakening day on Saturday 10 October at St Julie’s Catholic High attended by more than 250 people of all ages.
The ‘Parish Awakening’ event was built around a keynote presentation on evangelisation in today's Church, plus the liturgy of both an opening and a closing service, and a variety of workshops led by parishioners and guest speakers. Appropriately the presentation was given by Father Paul Cannon and Sharon Beech from Salford Diocese's department for evangelisation, the pair having co-authored the book 'Welcome to Witness: Becoming an Evangelising Parish'.
For Fr Tim Buckley, this new spirit of evangelisation – taking inspiration from Pope Francis's 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (or Joy of the Gospel) – was precisely the main purpose of the Bishop Eton/St Mary’s event. "The point was to try and awaken people to the need for communities to build themselves up. It's about seizing the opportunity to ask what the Lord is saying to us at this moment. This was a chance for committed Christians to say, 'How are we going to make sure our communities function effectively?'."
With the parish ideal being, in Pope Francis's words, to provide "a community of communities, a sanctuary where the thirsty come to drink in the midst of their journey, and a centre of constant missionary outreach", Fr Tim added: "We need to be celebrating as a community but we also need to be evangelising – spreading the gospel. Liturgy is important because that's how we celebrate; then we go and live our lives as Christian people. There are a lot of things going on, so people at the 'awakening' day could see what's happening and maybe say, 'you know, I could be a part of that'."
The liturgical celebrations at St Julie's were led by school chaplain Mike Anderson and his St Francis Xavier counterpart Brother James Hayes. The workshops covered a dozen separate topics ranging, among others, from the ministry of reading and the Eucharist, to evangelising teams, via music ministry, parish life in Belgium and Hungary, and environmental responsibility.
Completing – in Fr Tim's word’s – a "cross-fertilisation of possibilities, spiritual, charitable, social" was the so-called market place of parish stalls "whereby all the groups and societies from the two parishes made sure everyone knew what was going on across the board".
"The thing that struck me was the wonderful atmosphere," added Fr Tim in reviewing an event that "exceeded my expectations considerably". "There was just so much good will. The thing just took off and had a dynamic of its own. A heck of a lot of work went into it and huge congratulations go to the two parish teams who shared their various gifts. My hope is that people will have been inspired to engage more fully."