Bishops in Conversation

A conversation between Bishop Ian Palmer and Bishop Michael McKenna was a highlight of the Diocesan Cursillo gathering in Wellington on Saturday 26th October. More than 50 people attended the gathering, representing parishes from as far afield as Coonamble, Warren, Parkes and Bathurst.

The Cursillo movement began in the Roman Catholic Church in Spain in the early 1950s, and became a revival movement that brought thousands – particularly young men – into a deeper understanding of the Christian faith. From Spain the movement spread to North America, and to the Anglican Church in Canada, from where it crossed the Pacific to the Anglican Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn in 1979 and then to other Anglican Dioceses including Bathurst.

While the two bishops began their conversation began in the context of a Cursillo gathering (known as an ‘Ultreya’ in the Cursillo movement, from the Spanish word for ‘encouragement’), Bishop Michael admitted he had not attended a Cursillo three-day retreat. However, he said he knew something of the Cursillo movement and had been associated with the Neocatechumenate, which has some parallels with Cursillo.

Bishop Ian said that in Cursillo, he had felt a sense of being drawn into a deeper understanding of the community of God, and had found that “the love God has for us is something that binds us together”. Commenting on community, Bishop Michael observed that “God gives us people who are impossible to live with – and one day we wake up and realise that we are one of those people”.

Inevitably, the sharing of the Eucharist featured in the conversation. Both bishops saw the sharing of Holy Communion as the ultimate expression of community, and a connection between a small community (such as a church or a Cursillo group) and the wider community. “No community has within itself the resources to grow and be all that it can be as a community,” Bishop Michael said. “It needs to be linked to the wider church – it’s all about making something bigger than its parts.”

“Community, like all of us, has cracks in it,” Bishop Ian noted. “Holy Communion is fellowship that is continually being remade in Christ.” Bishop Michael said that many people were “baffled and upset” because the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches could not share the Eucharist, but suggested that “we need to be reminded of these differences from time to time, to focus on them”. “It’s a recognition of the reality that we don’t yet have full communion – that’s one of those ‘cracks’ we referred to,” he added, recalling his own experience at Bishop Ian’s consecration service in Bathurst last February when he “could not in conscience take communion”, but he had felt the pain of that choice. “But it’s not entirely a bad thing,” he said. “At such times I have prayed, ‘Lord, show me the steps that I can take to prepare for a time when we can have full communion’.”

Concluding the segment, Wellington priest Leslie Fotakis reminded the gathering that the Catholic and Anglican churches in Wellington had signed a covenant a few years earlier, before the signing of the Diocesan covenant, and had shared in a liturgy that was a “celebration of so much that we do have in common”. 

Wellington parishioner Garth Dutfield presented the witness talk at the gathering, telling how he had grown up in the area near Burrendong dam and had developed an early faith in God but had drifted away from this for much of his life. He had rediscovered that faith almost ten years ago, and attending a Cursillo weekend in 2010 had greatly helped him on that journey, and had inspired him to start on a study course to deepen his understanding. He also told of how his faith had sustained him through a hip replacement operation several years ago, when through prayer he had been pain-free following the procedure.

Offering a spiritual response to Garth’s talk, Orange priest Gary Neville said that he had given us the privilege of “looking through a window“ on part of Garth’s life. “This enables us to look at ourselves and consider God’s work on our lives,” he said, adding that the Holy Spirit had “walked very closely” with Garth over the years.

The Ultreya also marked the conclusion of Leslie Fotakis’ term as one of the Diocesan Spiritual Advisors for the Cursillo movement. Bishop Ian formally acknowledged her contribution, and de-commissioned her from the role before commissioning Warren priest Linda Boss to continue the role.

Lew Hitchick

Photos courtesy Lew Hitchick - Anglican News

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