In June 2018, Bishop Peter asked a small group to explore new forms of leadership within the diocese. Our current situation is stretching our clergy to the limits, and we know we have many gifted and experienced lay people and deacons who could serve the church in more extended ways. Drawing on the teaching of the Church, we started to develop new forms of leadership for our parishes:
Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1213)
While we want to broaden lay involvement across the whole Church, we also felt is was necessary to develop specific parish leadership roles, drawing on the provision made in Canon 517.2.
If, because of a lack of priests, the diocesan bishop has decided that participation in the exercise of the pastoral care of a parish is to be entrusted to a deacon, to another person who is not a priest, or to a community of persons, he is to appoint some priest who, provided with the powers and faculties of a pastor, is to direct the pastoral care.
From this provision, and looking at the experience of the Church in the rest of the world, we have developed the concept of ‘Mandated Ministry’ and two draft roles for consultation.
Mandated Pastoral Ministry
This ministry is authorised by the Bishop. It has a formal relationship to the community of the Church and relies upon the discernment, authorisation and supervision of the hierarchy.
Not just an administrative role, this is for the pastoral care of God’s people and our mission to the world.
This is a discerned vocation arising from the sacrament of baptism and is open to lay people and deacons.
Pastoral Associate – existing role
We already have a number of lay people in paid pastoral roles across the diocese, contributing much to their communities. “Pastoral Associate” is a collective name for those employed in parishes as pastoral workers, coordinators, administrators or assistants, or as catechetical coordinators. These roles tend to be based in the larger parishes, assisting the priest in his ministry. Parish secretaries also often undertake pastoral ministry as part of their duties.
Pastoral Coordinator – new role
Pastoral Coordinators will be based in a smaller community where there is a non-resident Parish Priest often based in an adjoining parish. These may be clustered parishes or a large parish with a number of smaller communities. Parish Coordinators would hold the leadership for their local community under the supervision of the parish priest, who would also provide the sacraments. The needs of each parish community are very different, so each role would be created individually, in consultation with the clergy and pastoral council. This is a pastoral and spiritual role, not simply an administrative role. In collaboration with the Parish Priest they will provide local spiritual and administrative leadership for a small Catholic community.
Pastoral Leader – new role
Pastoral Leaders will be based in larger parishes without resident priests, often with no nearby parish priest. They will serve under Canon 517.2, being appointed by the Bishop to the spiritual and administrative leadership of that community. Sacramental ministry could be undertaken by a retired priest, living in the presbytery or locally, a rota of visiting priests or a neighbouring priest.
The Pastoral Leader will be responsible to the Priest Moderator (see below). As with the Pastoral Coordinator, each role will be developed bespoke with the parish according to local needs. Their duties may include working with the parish pastoral council to develop a plan for the mission of the community; coordinating and supporting volunteers; overseeing the pastoral ministry of the parish, such as sacramental preparation and visiting the sick; encouraging social activities; overseeing the financial and administrative administration required by the diocese; and being part of pastoral area and ecumenical networks.
The Pastoral Leader is responsible to the Priest Moderator who will supervise their work and mentor their ministry. It will be critical for the priest moderator and the Pastoral Leader to meet regularly, for example monthly, or more regularly in the first year.
These new roles will be official appointments of the Church, appointed by the Bishop. Those fulfilling them will be expected to have undergone a discernment process similar to the diaconate, and to have the appropriate diocesan training. Many Pastoral Coordinator roles, especially in smaller communities where fewer hours are required, will be on a non-stipendiary ministry basis. This is customary in other churches, and is the position of deacons in their diaconal ministry. The roles with greater numbers of hours (including Pastoral Leader roles) will usually be stipendiary, with financial responsibility taken by the local community or Pastoral Area, as Pastoral Associate roles are currently. With numbers of priests falling, it is expected that there will be savings that can be made (eg in living costs where a priest is no longer resident) which can be redirected towards stipendiary roles.
This is a consultative process, aided by prayer and reflection. Already many people have had a chance to mould these roles through their input and ideas. Through the autumn of 2019 Pastoral Area Reflection Days will take place to see how these roles may be developed locally. Mission plans will be presented to Bishop Peter and there will be a gathering of all the Pastoral Area Councils on March 28th, 2020.