The archdiocese is on the right track in using collaborative ministry to build leadership in its parishes and pastoral areas. This type of ministry is a way of working together which depends on a number of elements, the essential one being people’s sharing of their gifts and talents in pursuit of a common mission.
Br Loughlan Sofield and Sr Carroll Juliano worked with pastoral areas in the Wellington Archdiocese last month and say they are impressed with the extent to which Wellington is already using collaborative ministry.
‘You’ve really captured in this diocese the whole essence of collaborative ministry—talking about the gifts of the youth, the gifts of people from outside the church,’ Loughlan Sofield said.
The two who have worked with groups throughout the world and written extensively on the subject say the direction of the archdiocese from last year’s synod can be summed up in one sentence based on statements from the synod booklet: ‘People have to identify, value, support, nourish and celebrate their gifts.’
Through this work with parishioners’ gifts, a parish can build itself up and be in a strong position to be working with other parishes in its pastoral area.
But the word ‘gift’ can be difficult to understand. Many think of natural talents when they hear the word ‘gift’. Natural talents are important in the sharing of a community, but gifts can also come through life experiences, sometimes educational, sometimes as the result of a crisis.
Carroll says a time of crisis or tragedy, when it’s worked through with God’s grace, can have a gift at the end of it.
‘We don’t always see that in the journey; sometimes we don’t even see it at the end. That’s a gift and it’s meant to be shared in some way, in service with the community.’
Loughlan tells of a school principal in Australia who liked to stand outside his office and watch his staff walk past and think about the gifts he saw in each person.
Then he’d call them over and say, ‘Did I ever tell you what gifts I see in you?’
This became an infectious practice to the extent that it was transforming the school with everyone there telling each other the gifts they saw in one another.
‘You have to create a climate of gift and the leaders must always be constantly looking for and affirming the gifts in each of the people and calling them to use those gifts.’
A number of obstacles to this practice can be hard to overcome. One in particular is burnout. This is caused by having unrealistic expectations of ourselves which then become linked to our personal value system.
‘The problem is that they’re unrealistic so no matter how hard I work I’m never going to meet them and feel valued about myself, so that’s the root,’ Carroll says.
The road to burnout can start with overcommitment to work coming from a need to feel good about oneself based on unrealistic expectations.
‘You lose a balance in life.’
Exhaustion comes in the second stage of burnout, ‘coming out of the fact that there is a lot of questioning of values – what’s all this about, is it worth it.’
Depression and withdrawal characterise a third stage of a burnout spiral and the fourth stage, cynicism, can bring such destructive behaviour as substance abuse. Here the self-esteem is very low and hostility to others high. There is a strong sense of wanting to control and to compete.
‘Carroll and I discovered that there are many people working in and for the church who are in the process of burning out. For instance, if your diocese wasn’t doing what it’s doing right now, we’d be twice as worried about your priests.’
Loughlan says responsibilities can grow out of control so that before long one priest might be looking after not just one but two parishes, and have a role on a diocesan committee.
‘It is important for people to challenge each other when they see someone getting into burnout,’ Carroll says.
But they stress that burnout is not caused by the amount of work a person does but rather by an unrealistic or idealistic expectation.
‘We always say, “Be like Jesus; Jesus often said no”.’
Br Loughlan Sofield and Sr Carroll Juliano’s latest book, Facing Forgiveness, is available from Pleroma, www.christiansupplies.co.nz email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0508 988 988.