Lay leaders’ formation programme Launch Out marks 10 years

Cecily McNeill2 August 2012 The Launch Out leadership formation programme in the Wellington Archdiocese is now 10 years old and the Catholic Foundation is undertaking a major fundraising drive to…

Cecily McNeill
2 August 2012

The Launch Out leadership formation programme in the Wellington Archdiocese is now 10 years old and the Catholic Foundation is undertaking a major fundraising drive to support this innovative ministry which has already brought vigour, energy, new life and dynamism to many pastoral areas.

Since it started from discussion at the 1988 and 1998 diocesan synods, Cardinal Tom Williams says the programme and the lay pastoral leaders it forms have become indispensable.

The vision of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, the Council of Priests and the Education Centre was that lay women and men who came through ‘a searching selection process’ receive an in-depth formation in the scriptures, Church history and teachings, liturgy and pastoral praxis over three or four years. They would also receive sound spiritual formation through monthly spiritual direction, prayer days and an annual retreat.

The candidates must pass 18 papers for an NZQA-approved Diploma in Pastoral Leadership. This includes planning and carrying out each year a mentored, supervised and evaluated pastoral project. Once passed they are eligible for appointment to a parish or chaplaincy, complementing the ministry of parish priest or priest chaplain.

Cardinal Tom says because of this rigorous training the lay leaders are ‘well fitted to contribute, along with the priests and religious, to the spiritual and liturgical life of the communities to which they are appointed’.

In 1980 Cardinal Tom said, ‘Seeing lay ministry as the solution to priest shortage tempts us to set it in the context of expedience. We will end up trying to fill gaps and maintain obsolete models of pastoral care. Seeing lay ministry as … arising from baptism and confirmation leads us to set it in its proper theological context. We will begin transforming our structures and methods of evangelisation and establishing new, more relevant and effective models of pastoral care.’

Since then, he says, the archdiocese has gained a clearer understanding of the privileges and responsibilities arising from baptism and confirmation.

‘The leadership roles assumed by the Launch Out lay pastoral leaders have proved remarkably effective. New structures have been introduced notably the grouping of parishes into pastoral areas whereby the parishes assist one another in meeting pastoral needs.’

Archdiocesan Pastoral Services has considerably resourced pastoral care in the areas of marriage and family life, youth, liturgy, social justice and ethnic chaplaincy and new initiatives are continually being developed.

The concept of lay pastoral workers in parishes goes back to the 1970s when mostly religious sisters worked with parish priests and chaplains. The sisters brought to their pastoral ministries the formation they had received in their novitiates and in courses attended in New Zealand and overseas.

‘Given that the Catholic community in the New Zealand dioceses were becoming better educated – more remaining longer at secondary school, more going to university, more gaining vocational qualifications – the archdiocesan synod of 1988 called for more adult education in the faith and increased opportunity for the formation of lay ministers so that knowledge of Church life and teachings would match their secular knowledge. The 1998 synod re-emphasised this call.

‘Over the same period the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council and the Council of Priests were learning from the experience of overseas dioceses. Fresh impetus in lay ministry also came from major Roman documents such as Pope John Paul II’s Christifideles Laici (on the role of lay Catholics in the Church and in the World) and Tercio millennio adveniente (on preparing for the new millennium). The outcome was the Launch Out Programme to form lay pastoral leaders who would work full or part time alongside and in union with the priests in staffing chaplaincies and parishes.