Dynamic ministry teams with priests and lay leaders working together could be the result of the archdiocesan restructuring now taking place following extensive parish consultations last year based on the document A Future Full of Hope.
When Bishop John Dew was installed as archbishop in 2005 he knew he couldn’t go solo. ‘You may be wondering what shape the Archdiocese of Wellington will have under my leadership as your bishop. Whatever its shape I want us all to have a part in its making. That will mean you and I working together to explore and map a way ahead. … Come with me … with open hearts, open minds and open ears. Trust me and trust one another. We have nothing to be afraid of.’
Last year many people took part in discussions around A Future Full of Hope. In October the merger of some parishes was announced with most scheduled to take place in either February 2015 or in 2016. Some parish mergers are already underway. St Patrick Paraparaumu and Our Lady of Fatima Waikanae together are now Our Lady of Kapiti Parish. St Teresa Karori and St Thomas More Wilton will become the Catholic Parish of Otari in April 2014.
The plan is for current parish churches to be retained and parishes will be described as ‘one parish – three churches’ (or whatever the number will be). Inevitably the new parishes entail a new structure where clergy and lay pastoral leaders (LPL) will need to work together in teams. The details of the workings of the new parish will be determined by the team itself in conjunction with the pastoral council.
Such a relationship has been working successfully for the past eight years in some of the Hutt parishes. When Cushla Quigan was appointed the first LPL in 2006 she ministered in a team of two with Mgr Charles Cooper as moderator. The team was highly successful with members having a mutual respect for the giftedness of one another. Three years later they expanded to include Fr Michael Stieller from Waiwhetu and a newly ordained Divine Word Missionary priest Fr Linh Nguyen. In 2011 Sharon Penny (LPL) started her ministry in Eastbourne and later that year Fr Linh was replaced by Fr Albano Da Costa SVD. Cushla retired in February 2013.
This team has undergone a number of changes over the years. What has not changed is the dynamic way in which the team works, providing highly effective ministry in all aspects of parish life: liturgy, spirituality, community, formation, mission, catechesis, pastoral care, communication and administration. The team maintains strong links with the parish schools in the area and its members clearly understand that their ministry is about mission, each contributing their particular gifts to help bring about the reign of God. Fr Michael Stieller is the moderator.
There is no secret to the success of this team from Eastbourne, Waiwhetu and Petone. Each member understands the importance of regular team meetings where rosters are fine-tuned, various aspects of ministry are organised and areas of uncertainty clarified. Because they work as a team, it is possible, when one leader is away or unwell, for the others to step in and ministry to parishioners is not compromised. They take an active interest in their parishioners and like to get to know people. The relationships they form are clearly shown at milestones in the lives of parishioners – the sacraments of initiation, weddings and funerals.
The members are patient, understanding that it takes time for someone new to settle into the team ministry. It takes time to get to know each other and work out how others work best. Every meeting includes prayer, food, laughter, evaluation, honesty and ministry to one another. When the new parish takes effect in 2015, more change will occur as St Patrick’s Wainuiomata joins the team. This promises to be an exciting time bringing new energy full of hope and dreams.
During the Year of Faith the doors of the archdiocese were opened wide. Pope Francis has asked us to go out from the doors of faith to everyone. Are we prepared to pick up the challenge? The tasks of parish life belong to all of us. In the spirit of stewardship there is a growing awareness that people are coming forward eager to contribute their gifts for the mission of the church. People understand that the more they are involved in the life of their faith community the more vibrant and life giving the parish will be.
In 2005, when Archbishop John asked us to come with him into unchartered territory, we embarked on a mystery tour. The way ahead seems a little clearer now. The challenge is to continue to respond generously, keep the communication going and trust each other, understanding that Jesus works through us. Our call to ministry began when we were baptised – everyone has a part to play.