Imagine for a moment Archbishop John Dew on a trampoline with people around him calling ‘higher, higher!’. How does this image fit with the pastoral areas concept and what is it saying?
Archbishop John has just appointed Sue Devereux and Mary-Ann Greaney as a pastoral area support unit within Archdiocesan Pastoral Services. They will be the first point-of-contact for all pastoral concerns from parish priests, lay pastoral leaders, parish pastoral councils, pastoral area councils, and pastoral area teams.
Mary-Ann and Sue will work collaboratively and be available as support and resource people in the ongoing development of the groups mentioned above. In effect they have joined the archbishop as he continues to jump ever higher on the trampoline in response to the increasing requests for help as recommendations from the synod continue to be implemented.
Sue and Mary-Ann will work with parish, pastoral area groups and leadership personnel. Mary-Ann will be first point-of-contact for Wairarapa, Northern Hutt Valley, Hutt Valley, Horowhenua and Kapiti pastoral areas in addition to being the pro-life adviser for the whole of the archdiocese. Sue will be first point-of-contact for Porirua, Wellington North, Wellington West, Central Wellington, Wellington South and Wellington East pastoral areas and continue as family ministry adviser for the whole archdiocese.
Lorraine McArthur will support the South Island pastoral areas in much the same way.
The pastoral area model described in canon 517.2 began to take shape in the 1980s when some readers may recall a small team of lay people from the archdiocese visiting parishes and having conversations around the foreseeable priest shortage. They had been sent out by Cardinal Tom Williams who recognised the impact that a priest shortage would have. Rather than rely on his own considerable resources, Cardinal Tom gave us all the opportunity to have a voice and harvested the wisdom from many people from a variety of backgrounds. The result was a submission from the people to the 1988 synod that gave life to the pastoral area model we have today.
The process of consultation and discernment has continued now for over 20 years as first Cardinal Tom and now Archbishop John have responded to the voice of the people. 2001 saw the establishment of the Launch Out formation programme to form lay women and men as pastoral leaders. There has been a growing awareness and commitment within the archdiocese to work collaboratively. In 2003 Cardinal Tom and Archbishop John went to every area to explain the concept of pastoral areas, the theology that underpinned them, and the spirituality of communion.
Maybe the trampoline image isn’t too crazy after all. In recent years people have become better educated in their faith and want to become more involved in the life of the church. Archbishop John, like the Cardinal before him, saw this. In addition the robust process that has been used to gather the wisdom of the people cannot be ignored. The pastoral area model of church and all that goes with it is a decision of the people and clergy together, distilled at the synods and gifted to our bishops to implement.
If the trampoline image were to genuinely reflect reality there would be many people jumping on it. This ambitious plan needs the energy of many. When Archbishop John was first installed as archbishop he knew he couldn’t go solo. At that time he stated, ‘You may be wondering what shape the Archdiocese will have under my leadership as your bishop. Whatever its shape I want us all to have a part in its making. That will mean you and I working together to explore and map a way ahead. … Come with me … with open hearts, open minds and open ears. Trust me and trust one another. We have nothing to be afraid of’. Come with him we have! Sure, it is hard work. Sure, it has its moments of pain—but what a journey. The emergence of new life and vibrance in parishes and pastoral areas is a testament to the way we have all responded to the Spirit as it moves among us.
Following the synod of 2006 Archbishop John wrote, ‘Thank you for your most generous response’ to ‘come with me’ into somewhat uncharted territory. We have crossed the threshold and found the Lord already there ahead of us, beckoning us on. We can journey with confidence’.
Sue and Mary-Ann will be working closely together and, as their role in the life of the archdiocese continues to unfold, you may be sure their approach is one of collaboration and service. They can be contacted: Mary-Ann Greaney 496 1784. Sue Devereux 496 1744.