Proud to be lay in collaborative ministry

Barbara Rowley of St Bernadette’s Parish, Naenae, is celebrating her first year of officially being appointed as lay pastoral leader working in relationship with St Michael’s Parish, Taita. Barbara partially agrees with John Kleinsman (Getting to know the lay of the land) on the negative connotations of the word ‘lay’ but, she says, these are changing as more people become involved in the church.

Proud to be lay in collaborative ministry Archdiocese of Wellington

The word ‘lay’ has its roots in Greek: laikos meaning of, or from, the people. In early Christianity it came to mean the chosen people of God.

‘The role of the ordained is unique just as the laity’s role is unique.  Both spring from our baptism—we are all called. God said to each one of us “you are my beloved son and daughter in whom I am well pleased” [Mt 3:17]. The response to such an invitation can only be one of gratitude and generosity.’

Barbara says she is very happy with her title, even though for centuries the word ‘lay’ has implied inferiority. She prefers though to focus on the complementarity of roles that exists in parishes where a priest and a lay pastoral leader work alongside one another.

Some parishioners would rather talk to a lay person, particularly if it is about a family matter. ‘Even before I was appointed as lay pastoral leader, parishioners  would sometimes run matters past me, before approaching Father.’

Barbara says people need to trust lay ministry.

‘As a woman and as a lay person I think differently from a priest who is male and celibate. By blending the two – male and female, lay and ordained, we weave such a beautiful tapestry. Church life is so much richer. That gives me great hope for the future of the archdiocese. I think the church will become more vibrant. It will be more inclusive. We are representing a church that will understand the domestic and professional lives of people in a more intimate way.

‘The collaborative approach to ministry, adopted by the archdiocese, has many more lay people taking responsibility for parish life. This can’t help but enhance the quality of parish ministry.

Barbara Rowley has held the position since July 2006 although she has been working in the parish since the early 1990s when she was parish secretary.

Barbara began studying in 1996 for a Catholic Education Centre Diploma in Pastoral Ministry. When she finished the diploma, the parish employed her as a pastoral assistant for 10 hours a week. 

In 2002 Barbara joined the Launch Out formation programme. This led to her being appointed to the full-time position of lay pastoral leader.

She thinks initially most parishioners would not have noticed any change when her responsibilities increased as lay pastoral leader. But, she says, it certainly made a difference to the way she worked in the parish and with other members of the pastoral team, Fr Petelo Mauga and Fr Pat Greally. Barbara says she felt the  responsibility and privilege of leading the parish had lifted off Fr Pat’s shoulders and come to rest on hers.

Her appointment as lay pastoral leader coincided with Fr Pat Greally’s going into semi-retirement and becoming the priest in sacramental ministry. Fr Petelo Mauga is the moderator for the pastoral team of Naenae/Taita.

Naenae is a multicultural parish representing about 10 different cultures. These are mainly Samoan, Tokelauan, European, Filipino and members of various African nations. She is always encouraging people to use their gifts to enhance the life and work of the parish.

By getting people involved in parish activities, she believes it helps them to feel part of the parish and take ownership of it.

An example of how the leadership team in this parish works collaboratively is that Barbara plays a leadership role in preparing people for the sacraments and on the day of celebration, but Fr Pat takes a leadership role at the liturgy. ‘That is as it should be’, because he is a priest in sacramental ministry and Barbara is the lay pastoral leader.

As Barbara has grown into this position her role continues to be clarified. This year has been a busy one as the parish council and finance committee are being restructured and the parish is working towards a parish vision, setting goals and drawing up a pastoral plan. This will help the parish to better integrate pastoral ministry, maintenance and administration into the whole pastoral dynamic of the parish, Barbara said.

‘As I explained to the parish council, it’s all about the “growing of people” and bringing about the Kingdom of God.’

The photo shows Barbara Rowley (right) with Petone lay pastoral leader Cushla Quigan and Mary Ann Greaney of Launch Out.