The year of Paul has come to an end—yet it is really another beginning as we live more deeply the gospel vision that inspired this great apostle.
In several of his letters, Paul speaks about the Christian community as the Body of Christ, each part working in harmony and for the good of the whole: The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I do not need you’ nor can the head say to the feet, ‘I do not need you’ ( 1 Cor 12:21). The writer of Ephesians (believed to be a follower of Paul’s) prays that we may be filled with the fullness of God (Eph 3:19).
This is the vision we are called to live in the Archdiocese of Wellington as we work together in collaborative ministry for the mission of the church.
When I became Archbishop of Wellington in 2005, aware of the responsibilities entrusted to me, I asked: ‘Will you come with me?’ I wanted to continue the principles of collaborative ministry established by Cardinal Williams and the Archdiocesan Synod of 1998. This vision has now taken concrete form in the establishment of pastoral areas and the appointment of lay pastoral leaders, working closely with priests of the archdiocese.
We have moved forward into a new way of thinking and planning with parishes working together in pastoral areas to respond to the sacramental, spiritual, pastoral and educational needs of the communities they serve.
My vision for pastoral areas comes not just because of the shortage of ordained priests, but out of my deep conviction of the call of all the baptised to engage fully in the ministry of the church. Clergy and laity working together bring a richness and depth which no one can contribute alone. It is a ‘mutual enrichment’ of the uniqueness of the vocation of each one.
Our working together is rooted in the mystery of the Trinity dwelling in us, calling us to live in relationship with God and with all our brothers and sisters. As your bishop, I am called to be ‘a servant of the gospel for the hope of the world’, first in this church of the Wellington Archdiocese. It is my responsibility to preach the gospel and to build the communion of the church, ‘planted in love and built on love’. I am called to witness to one faith and one sacramental life, centred on the Eucharist, the ‘source and summit’ of Catholic life. As bishop I am also called to challenge the local church to be aware of the concerns and hopes of those around us and to help the community to discern the gifts each one has to offer.
This is Paul’s vision—the eye, the ear, the hand, the feet, working together in harmony.
Priests are ordained to work in communion with their bishop. Lay pastoral leaders are formed and authorised to work in teams. This variety of gifts, functions and ministry is directed towards the service of the mission of the church. The ordained priesthood and the priesthood of the laity do not exist in competition: each has its own purpose and each needs the other.
At the beginning of the new millennium, Pope John Paul II wrote:
The church will need to encourage all the baptised and confirmed to be aware of their active responsibility in the church’s life. Together with the ordained ministry, other ministries, whether formally instituted or simply recognised, can flourish for the good of the whole community, sustaining in all its many needs from catechesis to liturgy, from education to the widest array of charitable works.
As this movement for a more collaborative ministry of ordained and laity gathers strength in the archdiocese, I often return to one of the most graced moments in my priestly vocation. In 1992 I made a retreat on the Island of Iona, one of the oldest centres of monastic Christianity in the British Isles with a wild and rugged landscape—ideal for hearing, and hearing again, very personal words of the Risen Jesus to me: ‘Feed my sheep’.
Like Peter (in the gospel of John 21:15-17) I heard it not just once or twice, but many times and it has become like a constant theme throughout my ministry. It is a responsibility and a privilege I carry because I know the love of God is there to strengthen me in this service. I often think of this when I carry the ceremonial pastoral staff—a real support for the shepherd—the staff that other bishops of Wellington carried before me.
I know I do not carry this responsibility alone. I know I am part of the Body of Christ, each component with a gift to offer. We are on this hikoi together—will you come with me? Will you respond to the words of Jesus ‘Feed my sheep’?