On Sat 14 May, our Parish celebrated our many volunteers with a Thanksgiving Mass and Luncheon. The Mass was presided by Bishop Vincent Long. Fr Jude gave this address to our volunteers:
Today we gather during National Volunteer’s Week to acknowledge and give thanks for the many volunteers that make our Parish at St James a welcoming and viable faith community. Volunteers are essential, vital to creating growth and new ministries and are the key to introducing all people to Jesus Christ. They have the welcoming smiles at the door, they serve the food, pray for needs, organise mission trips, care for our youth, offer support to young adults, minister to and give value to our seniors and so on and so on. I am proud and honoured to say that as our community has grown so has our number of volunteers. If we want to see our church grow we must be a volunteering church.
A church without volunteers is an unhealthy church, because the act of volunteering is an expression of worship. It serves people and it builds relationships. Churches are among the few organisations where the same people are the owners, the funders, the staff and the customers. In my observation of all our volunteers here at St James, I see a people who do what they do because they are very much motivated by their love for Christ and for each other, people who see every member as a servant in the kingdom of God. It is often being said that the church is not a building made of bricks and stones. It is the body of Christ made up of people serving God and one another in their love for Christ.
It is significant that we gather today around the table of the Lord in the Eucharist because the Eucharist offers us a culture of being called together with others. Here we are called to be with others in a meal which the Lord hosts. In this meal hosted by the Lord, persons recognise a close neighbour, a fellow sinner, a sister, a brother with a place at the family table. In each one I see myself, as I see a brother or a sister, I also discover myself sinful but loved, undeserving but invited, shamed but embraced, lost but trusted. Dear friends that is how Jesus hosted and participated in meals by calling together the most unimaginable combination of people to a community to become his family, his Body because he has convoked them.
Jesus challenges the concept of individualism and exclusiveness that isolates people. Here at our Eucharist today we are affirmed and thanked by our God for witnessing to his presence through our volunteering of loving service. This is why St James is a wonderful parish to be a part of. You the volunteers take care of so many things in the life of the parish, empowered by understanding the Word of God and your strong desire to spread the Gospel. A parish, dear friends, is a living and vibrant organism kept alive by the activity of its people, reaching out to others, conscious of the need to pray together and open to the sharing of the gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit.
We could not minister effectively or survive as a parish without the involvement or support of all our members. It is because of you, the volunteers, and the dedication and sacrifices that you make, that we continue to live and not just exist. I want you to hear again how much you are valued and truly loved. May I emphasise and name the 38 ministries of volunteers that make our faith community successful and who are truly the heartbeat of our parish. Altar Linen, Altar Servers, Baptism Preparation, Car Park Attendants, Carpenter’s Club, Church Flowers, Church Upkeep – Cleaners and Vacuumers, Collectors, Communion to the Sick, Counters, Couples for Christ Australia, Emmaus Group, Environment, Faith Sharing Group, Fete Committee, Finance Committee, Flag Bearer, Function Committee, Knights of the Southern Cross, Ministers of Hospitality,Lectors, Music Ministry, Parish Pastoral Council, Paulist Missionary Sponsorship, Piety Stall, PowerPoint Presentors, Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, Sacramental Preparation Team, Special Ministers of Communion, St James Playgroup, St James Soup Kitchen, St Vincent De Paul, Sunday Liturgy of the Word for Children, Thanksgiving Programme, Ushers, Vintage Group, Young Paulists and Youth Mnistry.
May I conclude by thanking Bishop Vincent Long for his presence with us today. We congratulate in his new appointment as the Bishop of Parramatta. He will be greatly missed as the auxiliary Bishop of the western region. I personally thank him for his friendship and support since his appointment in 2011. We assure him of our prayers and our love for him for his faithful service in the Archdiocese.