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Parish Life blog: Resource for lay pastoral ministers

Debra Vermeer  |  30 November 2018

Archbishop Coleridge with Sr Kari HatherellLay pastoral ministry takes many forms and the job description often varies from parish to parish, but a new national resource aims to support and encourage all people engaged in lay pastoral ministry around Australia.

The resource, Faithful Stewards of God’s Grace, was launched at the Proclaim conference in Brisbane earlier this year and it’s now hoped it will find its way to diocesan offices and parishes and into the hands of lay pastoral ministers, parish priests and pastoral councils.

It was produced by the Australian Catholic Council for Lay Pastoral Ministry (ACCLPM), an advisory body to the Australian Catholic Bishops.

“Our hope with this document was to acknowledge the extent of the commitment of lay people in the Church of Australia right from the very beginning,” says Sr Kari Hatherell osu, Chair of the ACCLPM.

“Then, we wished to not only acknowledge, but also resource, the group of people who are responding in the present to what many would see as a vocational call to lay pastoral ministry, which is a ministry of lay people working with the ordained to build the Body of Christ.”


The ACCLPM was established in 2012 by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference to foster collaboration among dioceses and to facilitate a national approach to aspects of pastoral ministry. The Council conducted a qualitative survey among Catholic dioceses in Australia which sought to obtain a general understanding of the national landscape of lay pastoral ministry. This was followed by the commissioning of a more in-depth study, involving case studies from diverse pastoral settings across Australia by the Christian Research Association in 2015.

Faithful Stewards of God’s Grace draws from that research to provide the national resource for lay pastoral ministers across the nation.

“The research confirmed what we knew in our hearts already,” Sr Kari says. “And that is, that lay pastoral ministry is very hard to get a handle on. It’s a term we use for paid positions and volunteers. There are many lay people in these positions, but also some religious women and men.

“We wanted to produce a document of some weight that would help us, as a Church, to acknowledge and resource this work, in all its many forms, as a ministry – not just ‘helping Father’, a view that can still be prevalent.”


Faithful Stewards of God’s Grace recognises the place of lay pastoral ministry within the common vocation of discipleship in relation to other forms of ministry, the document’s introduction says.

“The vocations and ministries in the Catholic Church in Australia are diverse and complementary. The body of Bishops, together with the Pope, priests, deacons, consecrated religious priests, brothers, sisters and lay people, work together in the Church and in the world,” it says.

Faithful Stewards of God’s Grace promotes and enables attitudes and practices of collegiality in order to best serve the pastoral needs of the Catholic Church in Australia.”

Sr Kari says it is the hope of the ACCCLPM that the resource will be of practical help to lay pastoral ministers as well as provide a solid theological underpinning for their work.


“We are conscious that this is a beginning,” she says. “Our hope is that it won’t become a document that sits on a shelf, but that it will get into the hands of lay pastoral ministers, priests and local communities,” she says.

“Lay pastoral ministers need to be formed, commissioned, resourced and accountable as ministers within their local community.”

Sr Kari says that following the research, and then the development of the national resource, the next step is to build a website with practical resources to support the work of lay pastoral ministers in the parish.

It would include things such as draft job descriptions, best practice guides, and resources for further study and formation.

“With the rise of compliance issues in parishes nowadays, we have to consider what this means for lay pastoral ministers. There is a level of professionalism required there now and we hope this resource will help achieve that.”


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