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

Launching out into the deep

WelCom May 2018:

Through our gift of Baptism we are each called to a spirituality of service as shepherds of Christ. By using our unique God-given gifts and talents our response to ministry can be expressed in many ways. For some, it is in Church leadership and pastoral service. Joan McFetridge, the founder, manager and formator of the Archdiocese of Wellington’s Lay Pastoral Leadership programme, Launch Out, explains this programme, now in its sixteenth year.


Launch Out

Launch Out candidates April this year. Photo: Christopher Rammell

On 8 April, the second Sunday of Easter, Cardinal John Dew commissioned Debbie Matheson as Lay Pastoral Leader for Wellington’s Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Otari and St Mary of the Angels pastoral area.

Six years ago, Debbie joined a diverse group of ten others who also felt God’s pull into the Launch Out formation programme for Lay Pastoral Leadership.

Launch Out’s seeds were planted at the 1988 Synod by the people of the Archdiocese. Ten years later at the 1998 Synod they asked for lay pastoral leaders and a ministry formation programme. At that Synod people also voted against having deacons, prefering to develop a lay leadership ministry.

After much prayer, seeking and searching to ensure the best programme for the Archdiocese’s new form of leadership ministry, we found a model in Holland close to what we had been looking for. Its foundation was in Canon 517.2.

Fourteen years on from the 1988 Synod recommendation, and with the millennium words of St Pope John Paul II ringing in our hearts, in 2002, we stepped up to act on ‘Duc in altum: Put out your nets into the deep’. And so the Launch Out formation programme began with an initial group of eight people.

Since 2006, 27 graduates have been endorsed in leadership ministry. We currently have nine graduates serving in leadership roles for the Archdiocese or the New Zealand Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

In 2002 at the start of Launch Out, Cardinal Tom Williams, the-then Archbishop of the Wellington Archdiocese directed the need for an integrated process to combine academic learning, prayer, spiritual direction, theological reflection and pastoral practice. This approach remains central to Launch Out formation today and is key to its  success.

Launch Out is about a deepening of each candidate’s relationship with God, their commitment to the church, and their desire to serve God’s people.

The six-year Launch Out formation programme requirements

  • An academic component with 18 papers to ensure candidates understand Church history and theology in today’s setting.
  • A strong and faithful prayer life enhanced and enriched by the academic learning.
  • Learning and prayer that translate into the candidate’s baptismal call to ministry.
  • Study and prayer components coming together and applied to a pastoral project, planned and approved under a mentor’s guidance.
  • Candidates presenting their projects to Cardinal Dew, colleagues, mentors and the Launch Out formator at the end of each year.
  • Prayer days, retreats, spiritual direction, theological reflection and pastoral practice.

Candidates who complete the six-year programme are recommended for endorsement to Cardinal Dew. On receiving his endorsement, a graduate can apply for a ministry position within the Archdiocese, including lay pastoral leadership, archdiocesan positions, chaplaincies and ministries for the New Zealand Catholic Bishops.

While the Archdiocese’s Launch Out is unique within New Zealand, similar formation programmes are in Europe and the USA. The programme draws international interest especially from Australia and the UK. Some graduates have presented workshops about it at conferences in New Zealand, Australia and Ireland. Cardinal Dew has been invited to speak about Launch Out in parishes and dioceses in Australia and this year in Ireland he will talk about Launch Out and lay pastoral leadership.

While priest shortage has been a catalyst for Launch Out and other leadership-formation programmes, it has not been the reason for the programme. In 1980 Cardinal Williams said: ‘Seeing lay ministry as the solution to priest shortage tempts us to setting it in the context of expediency. We will end up trying to fill gaps and maintain obsolete models of pastoral care. Seeing lay ministry as an expression of mission arising from baptism and confirmation leads us to setting it in its proper theological context. We will begin transforming our structures and methods of evangelisation, and establishing new, more relevant and effective models of pastoral care.’

Lay Pastoral Leaders and ministering in a team with a renewed vigour for collaboration and co-responsibility with the clergy is a unique gift to our Archdiocese.

One of the Synod ’17 outcomes invites leadership: ‘Go you are sent…to find leaders. The Archdiocese needs adventurous and creative people with initiative who are willing to put themselves forward as leaders.’

If you would like to become involved with the Launch Out programme and pastoral ministry we would like to hear from you.

Please email me at j.mcfetridge@wn.catholic.org.nz to learn more.