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

Inside the role of lay pastoral leader

Joan McFetridge

11 March 2008

Recent commissionings and appointments of more lay pastoral leaders in the archdiocese raises the question of who are they and what do they do.

Kathy Orr-Nimmo started as lay pastoral leader in Wellington Central in February, as did Mary-Anne Peetz in Wellington West while Karen Holland was commissioned for Wellington South. Kathy has a particular responsibility for Brooklyn, Mary-Anne for Wilton and Karen for Newtown.

altLay pastoral leaders are appointed to parishes where there is no resident priest. They are responsible for the pastoral, spiritual and administrative care of the parish.

Lay pastoral leaders are appointed by the archbishop and are accountable to him. They are charged with the responsibility of carrying out all of the tasks normally undertaken by a priest in a parish, with the exception of those tasks that are specific to the priesthood.

Because lay pastoral leaders are well formed for this ministry, the archbishop has handed over the responsibility of leading the parish to these trained lay people. In doing so, he also gives them the authority to carry out their mandate of ministry.

Lay pastoral leaders have a job description and a contract, both of which are drawn up by the archdiocesan authorities. They are reviewed and are accountable for the mission they carry out.

In practice this means the lay pastoral leader works alongside liturgy committees to encourage active participation, discernment of gifts, careful planning of Eucharistic and other liturgies. They also ensure that visiting priests are supported in their involvement in parish worship.

Key relationships are with the pastoral area team, the parish council, the parish school, and the pastoral area council.

The lay pastoral leader has responsibility of ensuring an ethos of prayer and spiritual growth in the parish. To do this they arrange opportunities for prayer and reflection throughout the year, they arrange for pastoral counselling or spiritual direction when requested, and encourage the grounding of all parish gatherings in prayer.

They also work with parish groups, councils, individual parishioners and the pastoral team to ensure the parish actively builds community through effective leadership, seeking of gifts within the parish, using sound methods for decision-making and resolving conflict, working collaboratively with other parishes, schools, and with the local community.

The lay pastoral leader is also responsible, with the parish team, for the continuing formation of parishioners in voluntary ministries. There is also a responsibility for catechesis appropriate to the various stages of maturation in the Christian life by ensuring sacramental and catechetical programmes, facilitating participation in pastoral area and diocesan catechetical programmes, overseeing the parish RCIA programme, encouraging engaged couples to participate in marriage preparation courses, parents in baptism programmes.

The lay pastoral leader also has a responsibility to raise awareness of social justice issues and encourage parishioners and parish schools to support Caritas and activities of the Archdiocesan Justice and Peace Commission.

Pastoral care and good communication are key; visiting the sick, caring for immigrants, arranging for communion to be taken to the sick, supporting the bereaved, assisting those in poverty, and visiting parishioners.

Finally clear communication such as reporting to the archbishop, reporting to the parish council, supervising production of the weekly parish newsletter, and overseeing the administration work needed, including liaising with parish finance committees are all part of the life of the lay pastoral leader.

Let us welcome these generous people into our parishes and keep them in our prayers. All of them have made great sacrifices to prepare for this ministry, and many of them have relinquished successful careers to serve in the church in this way.
Image: Three of the six new Launch Out candidates, Bernadette Snowden, Dan Siave and Belinda Mellor.