WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

How our Archdiocese parishes operate

Cardinal John Dew.

WelCom June 2018:

Cardinal John Dew, Archbishop of Wellington

In our communities and workplaces there are well-established relationships within organisations. There is often a board, a chief executive and a management structure. The board’s role is governance, which involves making ‘big picture’ decisions about the direction of the organisation, strategic planning, overseeing its finances and appointing its CEO. Management does the day-to-day work – of making whatever the organisation does – actually happen. The workers report to
the CEO and the CEO reports to the board.

It is natural to assume the roles and relationships in our parishes work the same way as in the community and workplaces. But our parishes’ relationships and roles come from the Church’s theology and canon law; which means they work differently from other organisations people might be familiar with. Because there are always new people taking up roles in our parishes, I need to regularly explain this structure and its workings.

All parishes have a Parish Priest. In the Archdiocese of Wellington there are just a few parishes that have only a Parish Priest with no parish leadership team. However, most parishes have a Parish Leadership Team made up of one or more priests and a Lay Pastoral Leader, all appointed to the parish by me as Archbishop. The Parish Leadership Team members work collaboratively and are collectively responsible to me for the pastoral care of the parish. This model grew out of the 1998 Archdiocesan Synod when the people of the Archdiocese requested this approach.

The Lay Pastoral Leader does not replace a priest, nor does he/she act as a type of priest. Lay Pastoral Leaders provide a new form of lay leadership by working collaboratively with the priests in the Parish Leadership Team.

The Parish Leadership Team decide together the particular tasks of each team member, taking into account the skills and experience each brings to the ministry. The Parish Priest has canonical responsibility for the parish. And, with the exception of canonical tasks, he also works as a member of the Leadership Team taking responsibility for other tasks.

The Parish Pastoral Council is technically an advisory body to the Parish Leadership Team, but in practice they work collaboratively for the good of the parish. The Pastoral Council usually plays a key role in developing the parish’s Pastoral Plan. The members of the Parish Pastoral Council are elected by the parish or appointed by the Parish Leadership Team or parish bodies, depending on the constitution each parish has decided on for its Pastoral Council.

The Parish Finance Committee is also an advisory group to the Parish Leadership Team, but in most parishes, it works closely and collaboratively with the Parish Pastoral Council as well. The Finance Committee members are appointed by the Parish Leadership Team – or Parish Priest where there is only a priest in the parish. Every parish is required by canon law to have a Finance Committee.

Collaboration between the Parish Leadership Team, Pastoral Council and Finance Committee builds a strong and vibrant parish community. ‘Working together towards a common goal’ is one way to define collaboration and that is certainly part of it. But within the Church, collaboration has a different ‘flavour’ and depth. We are all baptised and confirmed, and that the source of our collaboration, which is enriched by our different vocations and gifts.

Discernment is the essential tool in the collaborative process, which means letting go of our own plans and agendas and allowing ourselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit. In practising discernment, the Parish Leadership Team and the Pastoral Council listen to the Holy Spirit – a very different process to that found in other organisations. Collaboration and discernment take some getting used to.

As Pope Francis says:

“It is true that this trust in the unseen [Spirit] can cause us to feel disoriented: it is like being plunged into the deep and not knowing what we will find. I myself have frequently experienced this. Yet there is no greater freedom than that of allowing oneself to be guided by the Holy Spirit, renouncing the attempt to plan and control everything to the last detail, and instead letting him enlighten, guide and direct us, leading us wherever he wills.” – Evangelii Gaudium (280)

People who serve in our parishes work hard for all of us and I am very grateful. God rewards our service in his own way – through the gift of discernment that can be applied to our personal spiritual growth; through the development of collaborative skills; which are just as applicable in families and workplaces; and in myriads of other ways particular to each person.