Last Wednesday 13th January, Joseanne Peregin was invited (as a representative of Drachma) to give an address to the College of Parish Priests of the Archdiocese of Malta and Diocese of Gozo about Drachma’s engagement at the periphery of the Church.
This is what she had to say about her experience ...
'Once a year, around one hundred parish priests spend a three-day residential live-in with the Archbishop of Malta (Mons. Charles J. Scicluna) and the Bishop of Gozo (Mons. Mario Grech). The three-day process is usually based on a particular relevant theme facing the Church in our country at that given time.
This year the theme focused on the Church’s encounter with the people at the periphery and how the Church can show the merciful love of the Father. Some pockets of society tended to take a distance from the Church – like LGBTIQ people and their families. So I was invited to share my own experience as a mother of a gay son, an active member of the Christian Life Community (CLC) Malta, a co-founder of Drachma Parents’ Group and also of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics (GNRC) in light of this developing pastoral space.
When I saw the rest of the programme, which included the people who were divorced and in their second marriage; or families in difficult situations, these were only given ten minute slots. The fact that I was given such ample quality time of one hour (including time for questions) meant that there was an honest need to address this area of pastoral ministry in greater depth, especially following the legislative improvements that were introduced rapidly in Malta between 2013 and 2015 and the recent Synod on the Family.
When I entered the hall and had a brief chat with the Archbishop – he did not quiz me about what I was about to say or what was in the handouts and leaflets I was placing at the end of the room, for the priests to take with them, for further reflection. He showed full trust in my intentions and abilities and simply took a seat at the front, eager to listen attentively.
The theme of my slot was: What do I expect from the Church? Of course, having nearly 8 years experience of listening to people’s testimonies coming from this periphery would include some of the improvements I would want to see in the approach taken by some Parish Priests. It would obviously include some key points so that people could be better received, served and made welcome in the parish. It would include initiatives that could be possibly considered or attitudes that needed developing while others being stopped.
The trust and space I was given left me feeling both appreciated and thankful – all those years of sincere dialogue and bridge-building had paid off. There was an atmosphere of collegiality and equality between me, a lay woman and the scores of priests in the room – all of us wanting to be more authentic in our respective roles, as witnesses of the merciful love of the Father, especially in this year of grace – the Jubilee Year of God’s Mercy.
The questions that followed my input reflected that there was a growing sensitivity in this field of mission and I am pleased to say that the reality of trans persons was one of the main concerns raised. My conversations with several parish priests after the session had finished, confirmed the eagerness to welcome Drachma to make similar presentations to their parishioners and help to strengthen bonds within the family. They found a good collaborator - Drachma.
To conclude, as I left the building and was driving back home content with the outcome and events I had witnessed – Malta felt a minor earthquake of 4.1 – as if God just wanted to say: this encounter was a ground-shaking moment in the life of the local Church that needed to be remembered. Go and tell what you have witnessed: the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk and the sick are healed ….
And so here I am, telling you ….. and shouting it from the rooftops!
Drachma Parents’ Group