3 September 2012
The Catholic Foundation has started a major appeal for funds to support the leadership formation programme, Launch Out, so that the blessings of lay ministry in the form of lay pastoral leaders will have a firm foundation on which to flourish.
This major undertaking will promote growth in the archdiocese, facilitate the mission of the Church and bring vitality to the parishes and pastoral areas.
In a world, country, and church which speaks of scarcity it is courageous and motivating to hear a group of committed Catholic lay people talking a language of abundance. This belief in a generous God who, when Jesus told the servants at the wedding feast to ‘fill the water jars’, ensured there was abundant wine, reflects the spirit the Catholic Foundation is working to engender.
The Launch Out Formation programme was designed after consultation with the people of the archdiocese through two synods, the council of priests and the archdiocesan pastoral council. Its purpose is to train and form lay pastoral leaders to work collaboratively with priests in parishes and pastoral areas. When we embraced this ministry we said we believe in, and trust in the giftedness, potential and goodness of the baptised.
Those who come forward to be formed in Launch Out do not come because it is a good idea, or because they want to help Father. Neither do they think they know everything.
They come because they have prayed and reflected on the gospel in their lives and because they see this as a ‘call’ from God, a vocation. Like Amos in a recent Sunday reading, ‘they have been tending their sycamore trees’ and have heard God’s call’. They are ordinary people prepared to do an extraordinary thing.
Solid, rigorous and serious, the formation programme is not for the fainthearted. It takes four to six years to complete. But the result is the ‘God of Surprises’ breaking through our humanness.
The blessings are multiple, not just for the lay person, but especially for the priests in collaborative ministry. A number of priests have said, ‘The lay pastoral leader is a gift to my priesthood. I am now able to do the things that I was ordained to do, very well. I have time to read, to pray, to prepare my homilies well and to put quality time into thoughtful and well-prepared liturgies.’ And, ‘Without the lay pastoral leader I would have retired from parish ministry. Her presence has given a new impetus and life to me and the parish. It is a gift.’
In the face of such reports what can we say, except that God knows what he is up to. We can embrace or resist. God is doing something here, something gracious, wonderful and humbling.
A potential candidate must apply with references and a curriculum vitae. These are given to an interview panel which always includes the archbishop. If the applicant is accepted, they have another interview with the manager of Launch Out, Joan McFetridge, who outlines the requirements of the programme.
Firstly, monthly spiritual direction, attendance at three prayer days a year, and an annual retreat.
Secondly, the candidates must complete the Diploma in Pastoral Leadership. This NZQA-accredited diploma consists of 18 papers in scripture, theology and pastoral ministry. For many people the treasures of our Catholic teaching are a wonderful gold mine for their faith and life. Thirdly, the programme requires that the candidate carry out four pastoral parish projects within the formation time and under the guidance of a mentor. The mentor also guides them in theological reflection. The projects are presented at the end of the year to mentors, colleagues, parish priest/lay pastoral leaders and the archbishop.
The integrated nature of the programme and the openness of the candidate provide the framework for the Holy Spirit to transform and lead the candidate into deeper prayer and leadership.
Finally the archbishop must endorse the candidate for full ministry in the archdiocese. Currently there are 12 candidates in formation – six men and six women. Ten graduates have been appointed to ministry. Six graduates have been endorsed but have not yet been appointed to any ministry.
See the Catholic Foundation website, and for more information about Launch Out, email Joan McFetridge – email@example.com
Image: At the last Launch Out retreat: Fiona Rammell, Joan McFetridge and Monica O’Connell.