Executive Officer Report July 2024: The Catholic Word of the Year is…?

1 July 2024 by

@AI pic by freepik

The Macquarie Dictionary word of the year for 2023 was “Cozzie livs” — a light-hearted play on the term “cost of living”.  For the Catholic Church in the last year, the word of the year has surely been “Formation”.  And formation is a highly complex subject, encompassing every Catholic and every person participating in a Catholic ministry.

Today most of our ministries are very open to people of all backgrounds, both as staff or volunteers and as those served, such as students and aged care residents. Most of these might participate to some degree in formation, so the question would be, what is appropriate formation for all these different individuals, in different roles, from different backgrounds and beliefs?

Another key question that is being asked by everyone from staff members to Canonical Stewards/Trustees is – “is our formation actually making a difference?”  This calls for a movement from evaluating the activity of formation – “Did you find the formation session interesting and relevant?” to also measuring “how has formation changed the capacity, attitudes, beliefs and practices of our leaders, staff and others, such as students or volunteers?”

My own experience in surveying managers in Catholic health has been positive, but the expectations of formation for leaders in health are less than those in say Catholic education or parishes.  If you have any experience in the evaluation of the effectiveness of formation in any ministry, I would be interested to hear from you to add to our joint understanding of this new area of research.

I recently had a conversation with some key Catholic leaders on the topic of formation, and the question came up regarding the development of skills of every Catholic person working in a ministry to be able to evangelise.  The question was asked, “is it possible now to evangelise in every ministry?”  The Church’s answer is clear, for any ministry to be Catholic, it must evangelise.  However appropriate evangelisation will differ in different situations. Evangelisation in a parish would look different to evangelisation in a hospital, where the vulnerability of people means that faith-sharing with patients will normally occur only at the patient’s request.  The message of 1 Peter 3:15 is, however, appropriate in every circumstance.

“…in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”

The planned international research project on MPJPS and similar ministries is being co-ordinated by Susan Pascoe, and flows from her participation in the work developing the methodology of the Synod on Synodality.  This project is now known as a study of “Inclusive Governance in a Synodal Church.”  Much more will be revealed about this evolving research at the AMPJP Canonical Stewards’ Forum in August.  Our hope is that a follow-up project will be funded to explore formation issues identified by this research project.

Our Executive Officers’ meeting is to be held this week.  The role or the Executive Officer is evolving as MPJPs evolve, and differs in each MPJP.  However it would seem that in all cases, the need for more “hands and feet” for Councils of the Canonical Stewards of MPJPs is becoming apparent as Stewards look to ensure that all ministries are faithful and effective in their mission.

This month some MPJP Executive Officers will collaborate with Australian Catholic Safeguarding Limited on a framework for undertaking safeguarding audits of participating MPJPs and similar organisations which are already regulated by government.  Two important aims are to maximise participation in audits by Catholic ministries, and to give confidence to the wider public that the Church is doing all that is possible to provide a safe environment for children and vulnerable adults.

For the well-organised amongst us, the 2025 AMPJP AGM and Canonical Stewards Forum (including CORMSAA, Formation Committee and Executive Officers) will be held in Melbourne on August 24 and 25.  The Catholic Health Australia Conference will begin on the evening of Aug 25, 2025 in Melbourne.  Venues are yet to be finalised. If you are a likely participant, please put it in the diary now as these are always very rewarding and enjoyable gatherings!