The first three graduands of the Diploma in Pastoral Leadership were among students of a variety of archdiocesan certificate and diploma programmes at their graduation ceremony on 1 December.
The diploma is a requirement of the lay leadership training programme, Launch Out.
The ceremony in Sacred Heart Cathedral also acknowledged the completion by nine students of the Master of Educational Leadership from the Australian Catholic University.
Dugald Scott, the Pro Vice Chancellor(Education) of Victoria University of Wellington read the names of the primary and secondary teacher trainees from Victoria University of Wellington College of Education who graduated with a Certificate in Catechetical Studies.
Archbishop John Dew presented the awards and based his homily on St Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (1:4-11, 27) on the variety and the unity if gifts.
The Director of Wellington Catholic Education Centre, Dr Peter Bray, presented the graduates with a challenge.
‘While we gather tonight to celebrate the completion of the course of study you have undertaken, what I would like to emphasise is that the reason for this study is to enable people to live and spread the Good News.
This is the faith of ordinary people, the fishermen whom Jesus called, the women who walked with Jesus.
‘Yet we spend considerable time exploring it in detail. Why do we do this? The reason is to work from a faith perspective and seek understanding.
The faith, however, is like the flu – it is caught. So, as Gil Bailie says, a Christian is someone who has met a Christian. So the knowledge you have gained is not going to be the trigger for people becoming aware of the Good News and God’s love for them. It will be the quality of the relationship you build that will do that. Alongside this you are now in a position to provide a reason for your faith, to be able to discuss it in a way that provides further insights into the faith that has come down to us, that you have caught.
The challenge for each one of us is to ask:
As a result of being with us, are people more hopeful?
As a result of being with us, do people have a better sense of direction?
As a result of being with us do people feel more empowered?
As a result of being with us are people more aware of how precious they are?
Our faith is like the manna that sustained the Chosen People in the desert. It could not be stored. Our faith will turn sour if we do not share it. We cannot hoard it and preserve it. We need to infect others with it.
As Archbishop John keeps saying, we are salt and light together. With the deeper understanding you now have, do you have the courage to proclaim and live the Good News?
Taking the Good News seriously means taking a stand because it challenges the dictatorship of relativism that is rampant in our world. We need to pursue truth in our own lives and inspire others to continue that same search.
This is not easy and we continually live with paradoxes and ambiguities. Our challenge is to ask ourselves are we courageous enough to continue the search for TRUTH?
These are challenges that face you as you move along on your journey. You are not alone on that journey, however.
There are people who also believe and who are seeking to spread the Good News. It is the awareness of this that can sustain you as you use the knowledge you have gained.
Two graduates, Barbara Rowley and Ann Garry, offered a personal reflection on what their programme of study had meant to them. Barbara said:
For two years before starting my recent studies, I was part of the Hutt Valley Working Party which had been exploring possible ways of dealing with the looming shortage of priests. During that time we studied several church documents, we reflected and we prayed. By the end most of us, were convinced that at least part of the answer lay with the laity taking up their rightful positions in the church, in response to their baptismal calling.
This, we believed, would not just simply fill a gap but would bring the church alive. To be effective, however, lay people needed to be competent, confident and educated in their faith, which is why I applied to join the ‘Launch Out’ programme and study for the Diploma in Pastoral Leadership.
The last four years, if not the easiest, have been one of the most enriching periods of my life. I believe the courses here were formative as well as informative. Their rich content, the gracious spirit with which they were delivered and the very evident faith of the lecturers contributed to this. My voyage of discovery embraced many beautiful treasures of our church. These not only enlivened my faith, but also filled me with hope and a vision for the future.
We have learnt much in the last four years. Yet a very valuable learning outcome was the discovery of how much I didn’t know. As we came to the end of the final night of any course we always knew we had only scratched the surface.
But I think the most important learning outcome of all was one from the Values and Ethics course, which was that people grow and come to fulfilment in and through multiple relationships. This reinforced for me the fact that we ‘can’t make it alone’, we need each other.
Ann Garry said:
I won’t forget the first night of the course – I was late and my nerves were somewhat frazzled after my teaching work and some car trouble.
Sister Elizabeth started the evening by asking us all a question: ‘What would you be doing if you were not here tonight’.
I had loads of answers to that one! But it made me realise that I was there by choice.
It was my opportunity to gain a qualification but more than that, it was all about learning, sharing and being reconnected with my faith, my religion, as an adult.
I could ask questions, explore issues, discuss things, query and even disagree.
And that was important. Because, above all other things, it was a safe learning environment.
There were times when I felt ashamed about how little I knew particularly as I was hardly a new girl to Catholicism.
But we were never made to feel small or ignorant when we asked questions and that, of course, is the mark of real teachers.
Our discussion was encouraged, I met new and interesting people and I learned a lot. We were fortunate to be taught by people who knew their subject and shared that knowledge willingly.’
This very special evening for the graduates ended with a supper in Connolly Hall.