Mission and ministry is not some airy fairy thing just for priests and holy people. It is the day-to-day hard slog of keeping the parish community running. Ministry is essential to offering a place for Catholics to gather, hear God’s word, celebrate the Eucharist and go out into the world refreshed and reinspired to live and share the Good News.
Parish ministry often begins by lending a hand at Mass, whether that’s proclaiming the word, becoming a Eucharistic minister or offering to sing with the choir.
It was no different for Ursuline Sister Kari Hatherell who explains that people get involved in lay pastoral ministry ‘usually slowly’. Her own journey began in 1992 at the Caloundra Parish, on the north coast of Queensland.
Generally, ‘a person may be invited to lead a particular parish ministry, and eventually be invited by the parish priest and others in leadership to take a more formal role in the parish,’ Sr Kari said.
After some time, ‘this person is commissioned so that their ministry is affirmed by the parish.’
Growing up on the Redcliffe Peninsula, north of Brisbane, Kari joined the Ursuline Sisters in 1983. Her journey into lay pastoral ministry began when she was invited to be a member of the Ministry Team in the Caloundra Parish.
‘I had just completed a Bachelor of Theology and a couple of other Ursuline sisters were already part of the team.’
Sr Kari says that sometime people will undertake study of theology or ministry out of interest and then apply for a position in a parish. ‘Lay Pastoral Ministers may be in full or part time positions, paid or voluntary and with a specific or broad focus in the parish.’
Admittedly, ‘I had no experience of this kind of ministry, however I learnt by doing and spent seven very happy and busy years involved in every aspect of parish life as a Pastoral Associate’.
Moving to the Cathedral Parish in Brisbane, Sr Kari had a very different experience but an equally rich one, working with a team of two priests.
‘I was asked to take the leadership of the Holland Park, Mt Gravatt Parish as the Pastoral Director. Over nine years, I was responsible for the parish working with a variety of priests as well as lay ministers, ensuring the life of the parish was alive and fruitful.’
Having been involved in vibrant parish life for over 20 years, Sr Kari now assists parishes across the Archdiocese of Brisbane through her work as a Project Team Leader at the ‘Evangelisation Brisbane’ agency. ‘This role supporting parish life grew out of my lay pastoral ministry work.’
In 2011, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) established the Australian Catholic Council for Lay Pastoral Ministry (ACCLPM). Yet what do we mean when we refer to lay pastoral ministry?
Sr Kari explains that ‘through baptism all people share in the mission of the church, giving witness in their lives of the love of God, made visible in Jesus, through the power of the Spirit. However, some are called to ministry.’
‘In the past, ministry was thought to belong to the ordained priesthood and to consecrated religious but in the years since Vatican II there has been an increasing number of laity who have responded to this call.’ The ACCLPM was established to provide research, support and resources for people working in lay pastoral ministry across the Catholic Church in Australia.
Today, many lay people work as pastoral associates, catechists, sacramental coordinators, youth ministers in parishes as well as hospital and prison ministry, and a variety of other settings. The list is endless, Sr Kari says.
Sr Kari advises that all lay pastoral ministries needs to be carefully discerned by those entrusted with the parish leadership and authorised by the parish priest or local bishop.
‘Ministers should be given necessary formation and training for their ministry, and lay pastoral ministry must always work in collaboration with the pastoral ministry of the ordained.’
A major focus for the ACBC Lay Pastoral Ministry Council is a research project investigating the current landscape of lay pastoral ministry in Australia.
From this project, national guidelines will be published to promote and support Lay Pastoral Ministry. ‘This e-newsletter has been established so that we can begin sharing some of the results of the research and engage as many people as possible in drafting the guidelines,’ Sr Kari says.
This article was written by Aoife Connors.
Sr Kari Hatherell osu is the Chair of the Australian Catholic Council for Lay Pastoral Ministry (ACCLPM).
If you would like to share your lay pastoral ministry story, please get in touch with us at: firstname.lastname@example.org