Ministries of Pastoral Care and Catechetics
One of the most significant, progressive and exciting things that has happened in the diocese of Killaloe in the past number of years is the advent of what we call the New Ministries. On the 21st of October 24 lay people, 19 women and 5 men graduated with a qualification from Mary Immaculate College, Limerick with the focus being on Pastoral Care and Catechetics.
Arising from consultation and assembly meetings a number of years ago the idea of New Ministries were proposed and it was decided to go ahead with it on a trial basis.
Both looking at the declining number of clergy and the vision of the Second Vatican Council that all the baptised faithful are called to exercise his/her vocation in a personal and unique way it was proposed to introduce New Ministries into the Diocese, Pastoral Care and Catechist.
Traditionally the term Catechist has connotations of someone preparing people to learn elements of the faith from the Catechism. In recent times Pope Francis has given the status of Catechist a boost by declaring it an official ministry in the Church. For our new ministers their focus as Catechists will be on Sacramental Preparation Programmes, Basic Evangelisation, Adult Faith Development, Scripture and Theology Programmes.
The description of a Pastor and the exercise of Pastoral Care is rich concept in religious, faith and theological thought. In Christian terms it has its origins in Jesus describing himself as The Good Shepherd and in His call and encouragement of others who are called to follow Him. Broadly speaking this ministry covers many aspects of pastoral care, baptism preparation, bereavement ministry, care of the sick at home, in hospitals, nursing homes, mental health programmes along with other areas that a pastor might engage in.
The response, when the course was advertised over three years ago was most encouraging with good crowds being present at open information evenings. Over 60 people applied and as a result of the application process and associated evaluation 30 started the course. The course was open to women and men and as it turned out the majority of applicants and successful candidates were women.
The course was offered and facilitated by Mary Immaculate College, Limerick and was organised on a residential basis during weekends in Mount St. Joseph’s Abbey, Roscrea with one weekend in Spanish Point. The first year was propaedeutic and focused on personal and human development, relationships and prayer. Themes in scripture, theology and spirituality were explored in years two and three. Supervision, one to one accompaniment was part of the course during that time. The practical, hands-on training or placements with associated reflection were frustrated by Covid restrictions and much of that was delayed until this year and will continue until Spring of next year. 24 of the class graduated in October in Mary Immaculate College, 12 in the area of Pastoral Care and 12 in the area of Catechist.
Between now and Spring sever meetings are planned with the clergy, new ministers and significant parish and school personnel, stakeholders who will be working with the new ministers. These meeting will focus on the pastoral needs of each area and try and match the skills and talents of the ministers available. Some fears and concerns have been expressed regarding the acceptance of the group by clergy and lay people, but from the reaction and interaction to date, these apprehensions have proven to be unfounded.
Commissioning and Appointment
New Ministers will be commissioned in Spring of next year, on Holy Thursday, DV on the occasion of the Chrism Mass that has ministry as one of the big themes. As a result of the discernment process between now and then and following on from that each new minister will receive a diocesan appointment and these will be announced along with the annual diocesan clergy appointments alongside whom they will be working. Some appointments in the more urban areas will be to a parish, while in the rural areas it would make more sense to appoint to a pastoral area to maximise the potential of the new minister. Because the ministry is a voluntary role, expectations can’t be too high and efforts will be made not to overburden anyone.
A number of other dioceses in Ireland have made some progress in this area and as a result of the work of the current New Ministries in Killaloe. The big work between now and Summer of next year will be in the area of finding meaningful and fruitful placements that will ensure that the work done along with the skills and talents of the new ministers will flourish and blossom in the vineyard of the Lord. If that is successful and my hope and determination would be that it will, another fresh crop of ministers will be invited to apply and we will be in a better position, building on the experience gained from this pioneering, courageous and brave group of women and men.
Congratulations, good wishes and every blessing to our New Ministers. Many happy years of fruitful ministry to all.
Fintan Monahan is Bishop of Killaloe
Clare Champion Article 12th of November 2021