With the release of Faithful Stewards of God’s grace, the focus of the Council has now turned to ensuring the resource is brought to life in local settings. Dioceses such as Maitland-Newcastle and Parramatta have already begun breaking open the content of the guidelines, but the Council recognises that further publicity and strategies will be needed in the New Year.
As a starting point, much can be gained by taking up the first recommendation of the bishops: Affirming and celebrating Lay Pastoral Ministry. Here are some starting suggestions:
1.1 Catholics to affirm and celebrate the work of lay pastoral ministers, past and present:
- This is a general encouragement to all Catholics to recognise on a personal level the work of lay pastoral ministers in their midst. Sometimes it is a simple card or note that makes all the difference in recognising the contribution of a co-worker.
- Keep a register of commencement dates for lay pastoral ministers in local pastoral settings and/or diocese and celebrating significant milestones of service. Catechists offer a good model of honouring their ministers’ years of service
- Articles detailing the history of local pastoral settings to include the contribution of significant lay pastoral ministers alongside ordained ministers.
1.2 The Church affirms the welcome, significant and ongoing contribution of lay pastoral ministry to its life
- While this seems almost a repeat of 1.1, it actually stresses an important distinction. In 1.1, Catholics in general are encouraged to affirm lay pastoral ministers. In 1.2, the official church is called upon to affirm the importance of lay pastoral ministry.
- Have the parish priest or bishop write a pastoral message affirming the work of lay pastoral ministers alongside the work of ordained ministers.
- Consider how lay pastoral ministry is noted in policies and other documentation at a local or diocesan level
1.3 National and regional conferences
- Associations in Melbourne and NSW offer examples of how umbrella groups support the work of lay pastoral ministry. The NSW group, for instance, offers an annual conference with workshops and time for sharing. Volunteers and paid workers are invited from parishes, schools, diocesan offices and other settings, along with their ordained co-workers to engage in the conference
- For regional, rural and remote pastoral settings, the opportunity to engage in such conferences is challenging. What strategies may need to be considered in order to overcome the large distances and associated costs involved for lay pastoral ministers in these settings?
- At a national level, conferences such as Proclaim offer a way of supporting lay pastoral ministers alongside ordained ministers. How might they continue to become more intentional in what they offer?
1.4 Education about the role is encouraged in all formation programs
- Specific groups are listed: seminarians, those training for diaconate , international clergy and adult formation of religious and parish communities
- The resources lends itself to being worked through on a chapter by chapter basis, and the accompanying video also is a useful resource. Where and how can these guidelines be brought to life in your setting?
- Is it possible to include lay pastoral ministers and ordained who collaborate together in the presentation to highlight positive experiences of these ministries working together?
1.5 Explore ways of celebrating the contribution of lay pastoral ministers
- The resource offers some good practical examples on this point