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

A lay pastoral leader in our parish/pastoral area – what does it mean?

The appointment of Cushla Quigan as the first lay pastoral leader to minister in a pastoral area raises many questions for all of us .Why do we need a lay pastoral leader?

Who is Cushla Quigan? And, how did she get there? What will she do?

Firstly why do we need this new role of lay pastoral leader? Clearly the Holy Spirit is alive and well in the Church. Vatican II introduced us to new understandings of the role of the laity and during the last 40 years has, in essence, been preparing us for a new role for lay people.

The declining numbers of priests means that we need new ways of ministering to one another in our parishes. Looking at our shortages, and with our understanding of Vatican II’s call for a fresh look at vocation, we can see a startling abundance.

Everywhere people come forward, yearning to give their lives to God’s saving mission, eager to minister to the needs of the world and the Church.

Leadership in the Church today includes both management and transformation. While caring for needs of the present, our leaders alert us to the demands of God’s future. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul describes the same characteristics: the steward acts as a servant, is trustworthy and exercises leadership ‘until the Lord comes’ [1 Cor.4:5]. Lay pastoral leaders are stewards in this sense.

Secondly, who is Cushla Quigan, and how did she become a lay pastoral leader?

Cushla Quigan has been a pastoral assistant in the parish of Petone for four years. These years have been very formative in developing Cushla’s skill in pastoral care. By working in partnership with Fr Gruschow, and the Petone parish pastoral council, Cushla has been deeply involved in parish life.

However, by itself this is not enough to qualify her as a lay pastoral leader. For four years she has been involved in the archdiocesan formation programme, Launch Out, which has led her and the archbishop to discern her suitability for parish leadership. During the four years of formation she has studied scripture, theology, pastoral ministry and leadership styles and skills. She has attended spiritual direction each month, and regularly attended prayer days and retreats. She has carried out pastoral projects under the guidance of a mentor and has presented these projects for critique to her colleagues, mentors and the Archbishop.

Thirdly what will the lay pastoral leader do?

The lay pastoral leader will minister in a team with other parish leaders/priests. In the case of Petone, the parish is part of the Hutt Valley pastoral area, and Cushla will form a pastoral leadership team with Monsignor Charles Cooper.

She will have the prime responsibility for the parish of Petone. Together Petone and Eastbourne will operate collaboratively as a subgroup of the Hutt Valley pastoral area.

Crucial to the decision in forming a pastoral area is the need for the community to have access to the sacraments. This is why there will always be an ordained priest as part of the leadership team for the pastoral area.

The lay pastoral leader will work with the liturgy committee, and the priest in sacramental matters. He/she will act in an official capacity, where appropriate, in liturgical celebrations, eg, conducting funerals and marriages.

The lay pastoral leader is responsible for ensuring there is an ethos of prayer and spiritual growth in the parish.

The lay pastoral leader will work with parish groups, individual parishioners and the priest to ensure that the parish actively builds community through the development of, lay leadership and the exercise of gifts in all areas of parish life, sound methods of decision making and conflict resolution, welcoming and inclusive relationships within the parish and community, close collaboration between parish and school, collaboration within the pastoral area.

The lay pastoral leader is responsible for the continuing formation of parishioners in their development as followers of Christ, and in particular the formation of parishioners in volunteer ministries.

The lay pastoral leader has responsibility for catechesis appropriate to the various stages of maturation in the Christian life, from childhood through to adulthood.

The lay pastoral leader is responsible for orienting the parish towards mission by an understanding of social justice as central to the life of a Christian, an understanding of evangelisation and the ‘transformation of the world’, by encouraging involvement with the disadvantaged.

The lay pastoral leader will have a major responsibility for pastoral care within the parish.

The lay pastoral leader is responsible for communication within and beyond the parish, together with the efficient administration of the parish.

During this time of change and challenge let us pray for each other that we will have the grace to hear God’s call and respond with generosity to where the future may lead us.

In the vision of an adult community, leadership becomes, in the phrase of the theologian Annie Jaubert, ‘the responsibility of all and the charge of some’.