National Meeting of Diocesan Directors 2010
NATIONAL MEETING - DIRECTORS OF CLERGY LIFE AND MINISTRY
MacKillop Place, North Sydney, 28 June - 2 July 2010
Bishops Brian Heenan (Rockhampton) and Justin Bianchini (Geraldton), Directors: Peter Bianchini (Perth), David Catterall (Wollongong), Kerry Crowley (Cairns), Ian Dempsey (Adelaide), Chris De Souza (Parramatta), Frank Devoy (Director, Office for Clergy Life and Ministry), Simon Falk (pro tem for Canberra-G), John Girdauskas (Hobart), Paul Gooley (Lismore), John Keeble (Wilcannia-F), John Kelleher msc (Darwin), Kevin Kiem (Maitland-Newcastle), John McGrath (Wagga Wagga), Mark McGuigan (pro tem for Bathurst), Brian Moloney (Broken Bay), Michael Morrissey (Geraldton), Ross O'Brien and Ros Soriano (Armidale), Dave O'Connor (Brisbane), Chris Reay (Sandhurst),Vince Redden (Sydney), Barry Ryan (Ballarat), Emmanuel Sakr (Maronite), Jeff Scully (Toowoomba), and Paul Simmons (Coordinator, Permanent Diaconate), Rod Ward (Townsville).
Council Members: Deacon Tony Aspinall (Sale), Fr Paul Cashen msc (Sydney), Mr Kevin Croker (Canberra-G), Mrs Cheryle Davies (Brisbane), Sr Susan Richardson pbvm (Melbourne).
Special Guests: Fr Mark Freeman and Elisabeth Cowie.
APOLOGIES: John Allen (Sale) and John Daly (Rockhampton) due to sudden deaths in both families; Martin Ashe (Melbourne Clergy Conference), Olex Kenez (in the Ukraine), Ibrahim Sultan (Melkite), John Healy (Military, on duty). No priest has been appointed for Port Pirie and Broome as yet; Bunbury does not have a Director.
In a change to the normal conference preparation by the directors of one of the provinces, the national gathering this year was organised by a committee called together by Frank Devoy, after consultation with the directors. The essential purpose of the Conference was to re-visit the achievements and blessings of the Council and Directors since 1993. To that end, two former Chairmen of the Council, Mark Freeman (now PP VG Launceston) and John Daly (Director Rockhampton), along with Director, Dave O'Connor (Brisbane) and Frank made up the organising committee. A great deal of time would be given to the Directors to compare and contrast their experiences with each other, particularly in terms of their roles in their own dioceses.
MONDAY EVENING, OPENING LITURGY
The opening liturgy was celebrated at 8 pm led by Peter Bianchini, who welcomed the new and/or substitute directors at the conclusion of the ceremony. They included David Catterall (Wollongong), Mark McGuigan (for Patrick O'Regan of Bathurst), Simon Falk (for John Armstrong of Canberra-G), Rod Ward (Townsville), John Keeble (Wilcannia-F). This was followed by an historical presentation by Bishop Brian Heenan.
In line with this year's theme, +Brian reflected on the background and history of Clergy Life and Ministry, the development of the St Peter Centre which catered for some 333 priests; his involvement as a priest in the Ministry to Priest Program for the Archdiocese of Brisbane (he was part of its Team Development program); his brief appointment as Director of Clergy Life and Ministry there; and his later engagement in the new Council in the 1990s as a member of the Bishops Committee for Clergy and Religious and the Bishops Commission for Church Ministry. He spoke with passion of the singular importance of this work for the Church in Australia today, encouraging the Directors present to exercise the same passion at the diocesan level.
TUESDAY 29th June. Morning Prayer at 9.00am (Chair: Dave O'Connor)
Session 1: Where has Clergy Life & Ministry come from? The Experience in Practice.
This session involved two presentations and a panel discussion.
Frank Devoy traced gradual development of Clergy Life and Ministry from Vatican II and the problems faced by clergy in the early years that followed the Council. In an effort to understand the Council, various gatherings of clergy were held around Australia (e.g, those at the Hume Weir). Shortly after, Australian Association for the Pastoral Renewal of Catholic Clergy (AAPROCC) was established. Coinciding with AAPROCC and in response to other initiatives of priests the National Council of Priests (NCP) came into being. These Associations urged the Australian Bishops to address the concerns of the time, which they did in establishing the St Peter Centre, Canberra, and the Ministry to Priests Program from the US.
By 1990 these two bodies (St Peters and Ministry to Priests) had run their course. The ACBC commissioned a review which coincided with the Synod on the Priesthood held in Rome in 1990. In response to the Synod and its document Pastores dabo vobis, and the ACBC's review, the Bishops established the Australian Catholic Council for Clergy Life and Ministry, a national office, appointed a national director, and asked each Bishop to appoint a director in his diocese.
+Justin Bianchini spoke of his involvement as a priest of Perth in the Ministry to Priests Program (adopted by 16 Australian Dioceses), following the initiative particularly of Bishop Ron Mulkearns and, in Perth, the strong support of Bishop Healy. As Bishop, +Justin became a member of the Bishops Committee for Clergy and Religious; he now sits on the Bishops Commission for Church Ministry.
+Justin explained that the Ministry to Priests program had four pillars to its makeup: 1) Detailed practical, spiritual, and psychological profiling of each priest (Personal and Spiritual Orientation Inventories and Tennessee Self-concept Scale); 2) This was followed by a Self Awareness Retreat during which valuable individual feedback was given to each participant, along with personal growth plan based on the outcome of the profiling; 3) One-to-one support was put in place for each priest; and 4) Support Groups were established, based on common interests, which would meet monthly as a priority. As a result of the program effective retreats and in-service became regular annual features in dioceses, if not already in place there.
+Justin explained that the one thing damaged clergy more than anything was gossip. He encouraged the directors present to recognise the many blessing that came with the St Peter Centre, the Ministry to Priests program, but particularly with the present comprehensive structure put in place by the ACBC in 1993 of which the directors are an integral part.
Panel reflection. Mark Freeman presented a little of his own history and experience as a priest and the blessing that had come his way as Director for Hobart. Speaking of the four essential pillars of priestly formation (the human, spiritual, pastoral, theological), he pointed to the human development of each priest as being essential and primary – the genuine development of the other three depending on it. He spoke of the Model Role description of a director, explaining that it could be overwhelming, however, in practice the role varied diocese by diocese. The director really had oversight of those tasks identified in the document if he was not directly involved. The document would be studied further on Thursday.
Dave O'Connor spoke in practical terms of the highs and lows in his job which, unlike most, is full-time and involves every aspect of priests' lives. The experience has been a significant agent in personal growth and understanding, particularly in seeing the Holy Spirit at work in the lives of priests. Dave gave examples of the type of care (even confrontation) involved in his work.
+Brian spoke also of the difficulties one can encounter in caring for priests, but insisted that we must keep trying. As a way of explaining that bishops would always need practical help, he was told that on becoming a bishop "he would never want for a feed, have a big funeral, and never hear the truth again!" Bishops, he said, can't do everything; in his case he relied on the advice of John Daly and John Grace. Further, he explained that John Daly often called him to ask how he was going.
For +Justin, "what gives him life, and what gives him hope" keeps him on track. Like +Brian, the job of being bishop is not easy, but the support he gets from his director, Michael, assists him greatly. The diocesan director, he said, will always exercise a significant and important role in the diocese to which he belongs.
Group work followed one-to-one discussion.
Session 2: How has what you have heard affected you?
"What did you hear said in the 1 to 1 process? Responses from the groups:
1. Michael Morrissey: spoke of the importance of the human dimension; that directors are dealing with people's humanity, how they're feeling as human beings; Pastores dabo vobis is clear about the importance of the human side of development. Priests will come to the director seeking assistance, though in some dioceses the structures are different.
2. Chris de Souza: spoke of the human dimension and our struggles living up to the expectation of self and others. Two other issues were highlighted: 1) that self-care was important in view of the reduction in the number of priests (and the diocesan expertise required) – avoiding a sense of guilt re unfulfilled expectations was important; 2) the pressure imposed by sexual abuse issues. In all of this, God remains always present.
3. Brian Moloney: the group was heartened by the history and development of clergy life and ministry, particularly the engagement of different enterprises; the efforts that have been made encouraged them to have a positive outlook to continue this work in the face of changes in the church and local difficulties; they were heartened also by the stories told of care for clergy in the past.
4. Ross O'Brien: spoke of the group's mostly part-time roles in care for clergy, in the face of busy parish schedules; they also spoke of the care involved in making an initial approach to clergy in their diocese; while some priests are away when a visit is made, others seem surprised by the visit (and may wonder why the visit is made), but it is important to remain as natural as possible in one's approach.
5. John Kelliher: the group raised the issue of the 'oral history' of the diocese; the older men know that history, the younger men may show no interest; there was discussion also about the tensions caused by lay movements which do not always understand the history of the diocese or parish. The oral history is too valuable to let die with the men that carry it: without appreciating the past, it's difficult to understand the present and future.
Dave O'Connor spoke the value of professional help that can be provided to director, team, clergy, e.g., the Healthcare Coordinators in Brisbane, and the Veritas programme. They spent some time discussing approaches to clergy: how do we begin a conversation with a priest about an awkward circumstance?
Jeff Scully reflected on Mark Freeman's comments about the role being 'overwhelming', giving as an example the efforts of the late Tony O'Keefe to live up to it; in some circumstances there is a gap between the Model Role document and reality. Jeff reflected on the fact that in the past we focussed on somewhat trivial issues while ignoring key pastoral ones (citing "Commonwealth for the Common Good" as an example solid pastoral wisdom).
Questions / reflections: +Justin spoke of the importance of the director's role in helping the bishop. Communication is important: ensuring that priests know who the director is; that there is a connection between the director and his bishop. Some discussion ensued about a conflict of interest for a director – should he be either a consultor or vicar general. Much depended on the nature of the his role: if he simply organised clergy conferences there would be little conflict, however, if he were to assist priests in difficulty there may well be a conflict.
Session 3: What is the Experience of Current Directors: What works, what doesn't?
Group work. Feedback:
Group 1. John Kelliher: the group spoke of the self-appraisal process (used successful in Darwin Diocese); it works well as a support, not a threat. All working in the Church have to do appraisals; it's matter of justice for priests if they are expecting all key personnel in the parish to be subjected to an appraisal process.
Group 2. Peter Bianchini: spoke of the importance of one-to-one contact; the importance of listening; the need to keep priests well informed; contact with retired men; issues of confidentiality. They raised the question of keeping records: should we ? ... depends on nature of role.
Group 3. David Catteral: role differs from diocese to diocese, as does membership of team and its mixture of men/women, lay/clergy; important to have women in formation; the importance of having access to bishop; also backup for priests who want to do retreats or sabbaticals.
Group 4. Kerry Crowley: spoke of the role of director and positive appreciation of the national group and its networking capacity; director will do job effectively when he's part of a team, and he will experience genuine support – it's not meant to be a one-person affair.
Group 5. Kevin Croker: there are more things that are working well than not; spoke of the importance of effective communication; the small things directors do seem to be the most important (the phone call in support; cards for birthday etc); the need to keep priests informed; widespread support for the healthcare initiatives (Canberra-G enthusiastic); concern expressed re bishops who have not appointed a director or do not have them attend these meetings.
A comment was made on the importance of having a team and perhaps dividing the role among each member of the team.
WEDNESDAY 30th June. Mass at MacKillop Chapel, 7.30am.
Morning Prayer 9.00 am. (Chair: Kerry Crowley)
Elisabeth Cowie spoke to gathering from a prepared speech, reflecting on her 30 or so years of involvement in the care of priests.
At the outset she apologised to the women and deacons present, as her focus was solely priests. While her "heart sank" at the request to speak, she was very happy and honoured to do so. After sketching her own history (working initially for the Spirituality Centre in Randwick, then the St Peter Centre in Canberra, the Ministry to Priests Program, and for our present structure and its three national directors), she spoke in glowing terms of her experience of priests: all became priests with the highest of motives; the precious nature of 'the call' – no one drifted into the priesthood; the struggles and disappointments with fewer priests, fewer seminarians, and fewer parishioners; when first ordained, priests were probably not aware of the implications of celibacy and the need for intimacy, the problem of loneliness etc.
Lis spoke warmly of priests' faithfulness, their resilience, their ability to mix with people from all walks of life; that people remember the little things we do for them but which priests tend to take for granted. Priests were not led into the priesthood by God and then abandoned by him; he is with them always; he loves them dearly (and there's nothing we can do about it!); it makes sense for priests to make him their best friend.
After acknowledging humbly the papal honour that had been conferred on her for her work with clergy, she expressed the view that priests were "princes among men". She thanked God regularly for allowing her to be part of priests' lives over so long a period.
Reponses: The directors were highly moved by Lis' presentation. Many directors spoke in deep appreciation of the sentiments she expressed, her honesty, sincerity, affirmation, her genuine expression of love for priests, for speaking from the heart. The view was expressed that what she said out-weighed anything said during the Year for Priests. It was a speech that spoke to all priests.
Group Work on Five Topics.
This was based on five articles provided prior to the meeting. Each director was invited to select one of the following five topics: 1) contemporary theology of priesthood – ministry emanating from baptism (David Ranson's Veech Lecture); 2) Dealing with abuse, from articles by Timothy Radcliffe and Daniel O'Leary from The Tablet; 3) Priesthood and Intimacy, based on an article from Human Development; 4) Gratitude v. Cynicism, based on material from Fr Stephen Rossetti in Origins and other small statements on the topic; 5) Generational (and other) differences in today's priests, based on an article by Fr Damien Ference in Commonweal.
Reporting in reverse order:
Group 5, Generational Differences: Ros Soriano's group spoke of the varying needs of different generations, the needs of different age groups; the need to include the interests of younger priests in formal diocesan discussions (e.g., Council of Priests meetings); the need to be aware that the changing face of the priesthood in Australia involved overseas priests in a significant way, and the need to appreciate their history, their cultural background, as well as an understanding of the history and cultural issues of their new dioceses. They spoke of the importance of respecting priests by not putting them "in a box".
Group 4, Gratitude v. Cynicism: Simon Falk's group used the articles as a springboard for a wide-ranging discussion: the importance of a more reflective, contemplative stance in life; developing various strategies to make gratitude common place, such as a conscious recognition of what we have received, but also recognition of what we have given in moments of pastoral generosity; the importance of putting in place a strategy for daily reflection that focused on an aspect of life for which one can thank God; the need for a balanced life which looked at things positively and freely, rather than being driven.
Group 3, Intimacy: Ian Dempsey's group reflected on seminary life at a time when one's body was ignored – perhaps fed and exercised but encouraged to deny or reject it; young men full of testosterone but forbidden to talk about this, but when discovered, guilt was often an outcome; growth to intimacy was not fostered and the process of dealing with this was painful; repression often led guilt and was never seen as normal; important to acknowledge that, like the rest of humanity, there is diversity in sexuality and intimacy among priests; growth to intimacy today, as always, remains an important healthy challenge.
Group 2, Radcliffe / O'Leary on contemporary abuse: John Keeble's group discussed many of the issues raised in the above group's discussion (I Dempsey's group); the nature of seminary life in the past was problematic and unhelpful leading to immaturity in sexual development and intimacy; they saw reconciliation with the victim and priest as a key issue; care for priests in prison was discussed with the impression that most offenders were shunned; today's problems belong to a broader cultural concern which need to be acknowledged as present in the wider community.
Group 1, Ordained Ministry and Baptism: Paul Cashen's spoke of the ordained minister as a "man of communion", asking what does this mean to us in fact, in practice; it was not just a matter of a clear-cut role but rather where one fits more broadly into the reality of communio today – not simply a lofty theological concept but a pastoral necessity; parishes of the future will be "a community of communities" (drawing on David Ranson's paper). With amalgamation of parishes etc, the role of the ordained is complex and invites a significant change in outlook and leadership style which in turn demands acknowledgement of co-responsibility based on one's baptismal call. All this calls not solely for a change in structure but a significant change of heart; in practice, it's not only good ecclesiology, but necessary for a priest's survival.
Session 5: "Ministering Effectively": The Importance of Self-appraisals
This session was presented by Paul Gooley and John Kelliher, both practised in the self-appraisal process. Paul spoke briefly of his background: his years in the seminary; his break for five years – where in the work-place self-appraisal was demanded and second nature; his return to the seminary and ordination in 1990. In addition to having undertaken the Council's self-appraisal tool on a few occasions, Paul reported that he had undertaken a vocational appraisal with Encompass, recognising its great value; today appraisals are required of key personnel by parish priests, it is surely a matter of justice that priests also do likewise.
John Kelleher explained that he undertook a self-appraisal himself in Darwin where he is Administrator, using the document prepared by the Council for CLM. Since then he has been instrumental in its use by eight or so priests in the diocese – for his order (the MSCs) it is obligatory. The process is thoughtful, contemplative, and pastoral in approach. By way of background explanation, John used the Johari Window to explain one's level of self-awareness (the hidden, unconscious, blind, and open self), pointing to the value of a self-appraisal instrument. The Council's instrument invites feedback, is confirming of one's gifts, and identifies the challenges needed for growth.
Each director was issued with a copy of the Council's instrument "Ministering Effectively: A Priest's Appraisal of his Ministry" (courtesy of Paul Gooley) and led though it step-by-step. Both men explained that dioceses have personnel who would happily act a facilitators (who do all the work); also, that the process and its outcome is personal and confidential to each priest, that it only goes to others if that's his choice. It is critical to have both the support of the bishop for the self-appraisal as well as his promotion of it in the diocese.
The AFTERNOON was free for Directors to visit the City and enjoy an evening meal.
THURSDAY 1. 1st July Morning Prayer at 9.00am (Chair: Mark Freeman)
Session 6: What's being done? What can be done?
This session was presented by Dave O'Connor and Cheryle Davies, again with a particular focus on the director's role, particularly the different aspects of care.
Dave explained that these gatherings were particularly helpful for him; he came into the role in 2001 from Ipswich Parish; the national meetings have provided tangible support. He has a full-time role without parish responsibilities, but with an effective clergy support office and regular weekly contact with the Bishops there. Cheryle and Lyn have enhanced the effectiveness of this work.
Dave gave a number of examples of his work - what's being done, including a general overview of priests in their parishes; an involvement with those in prison and their rehabilitation (post-prison priests are treated as senior priests and invited to be part of gatherings); presbyteral jubilees for those 70, 60, 50, 40 and 25 years of service; sees to the 'mail out' for clergy functions; organises supplies and does some; his staff organise the self-appraisal process which has proved positive; sees to wills and power of attorney; and is responsible for ongoing formation of deacons. Dave works on the principle that "if you bring priests together good things happen". He reported on the healthcare coordination by Cheryle and Lyn and the positive value of the Veritas initiative.
Cheryle Davies, who has been in her present role for four-and-a-half years, explained that she is a registered nurse with a long-term interest in community-based nursing; among other things, she ran clinics in doctors' surgeries. Cheryle and Lyn are employed by St Vincent's Hospital, not the Archdiocese, but are contracted to it; this arrangement gives clarity to both privacy and confidentiality. Cheryle's work began initially with a visit to each deanery.
In terms of what can be done, Cheryle recommended that priests practise the principles of self-care; undertake self-appraisals; get a solid sense of grounding; recognise one's limits; promote the CLM organisation and your role (priests may not know a lot about it); be available to hear what's not being heard by other people; keep an eye on isolation, or more positively on connectedness; do the simple things by way of follow-up on issues, including the odd phone call at the appropriate time, the birthday or anniversary greeting etc; check the various resources available for men's health, some of which are available on CLM's website.
Session 7: Focus on the Director's Role – the Model Role document
This session included, first, questions and clarifications of the role held by Cheryle and Lyn, followed by discussion about the Model Role description, which has a well-known and long history.
Directors were asked to focus on what among the goals "affirms you in your role, in your diocese; what challenges you; why do you feel affirmed and challenged?"
Feedback included: the Model Role description is idealistic, with perhaps some of the goals a little out of touch; goals are far more difficult than functions, goals being more comprehensive; it is the nature of goals to be broader in expression, with functions being a more specific expression of the identified gaols; the role of directors is different diocese-by-diocese, hence the importance of the bishop understanding the broad nature of the document, keeping as close as possible to its hopes; the quality of fraternal trust in item no. 3 is more critical than anything; important to remember the concept of the 'wounded healer' (Sts Peter and Paul didn't always see eye-to-eye); in view of the above, could the directors / bishops benefit by a revision of the Model Role document?
Thursday afternoon, 3.30 pm
Session 8: General matters
A number of miscellaneous items were discussed followed by the national Director's Report:
1. The importance of reporting back to bishop and priests in diocese was stressed, some reporting that it had not happened in their dioceses.
2. Kevin Croker spoke of a proposal for national conference (like the Brisbane 2008 conference) to revisit the major administrative aspects relating to clergy care and wellbeing. He reported that there were constant changes in Government policy areas (re healthcare card, major allowances, pension bonus scheme, rent assistance etc) and that there was a need on our part to update information on how they affected priests. Such a conference would be both welcome and timely and would work-in with the meeting of the Healthcare Coordinators set down for March 24/25, 2011 in Brisbane.
3. Emmanuel Sakr, director for the Maronite diocese, spoke of the need to create a greater awareness of the Eastern Churches in Australia: particularly the practical pastoral matters relating to baptisms and confirmation (not re-baptising them at confirmation time); respect for them in mainstream Catholic schools where, unwittingly, they may be compelled to follow the spirituality and practices of the Latin (Western) Church.
4. Gratitude was expressed to Frank Devoy for the very successful conduct of this national gathering.
National Director's Report:
Frank stressed again the importance of Directors reporting to their bishops and priests after each national gathering. Additional points:
- Thanks to Bishops Brian and Justin for making the effort to be present and their contributions;
- Thanks to the Mark Freeman, John Daly, and Dave O'Connor for the organisation of this Conference. Thanks also to those who, additionally, made a specific contribution: both Bishops, Lis, Paul Gooley and John Kelleher; Dave O'Connor and Cheryle Davies;
- Thanks to each Diocesan Director for the fine work being done around Australia. In this regard Frank noted, from the experience of his travels, the many priests who were tired and in need of care and support, a role that directors could well play. He pointed to the moral responsibility each has to care for his health, which will always be balanced against the authentic cost associated with priestly ministry, registering the Church's teaching that health is not an end in itself (referencing the Catechism no. 2288/9). Whatever the task set by the diocese, all priests have some responsibility to care for each other, the director more so.
- In relation to the often-made request for spiritual directors, Frank had asked both Bishop Brian and Tim Norton SVD to canvass religious orders during the forthcoming meeting of CRA leaders, who may have retired spiritual directors willing to visit remote dioceses for this purpose (with regular contact via skype or other electronic methods).
- Frank reported that Tim Norton had, at the Council's request, made a presentation about the increasing presence of Religious Order priests as PPs in traditional diocesan parishes – approx 35 in Melbourne and 30 in Sydney, and the implications of this;
- Frank listed the issues he brought to his role in 2006 which continue to be dealt with positively, along with the present ones: ensuring strong energetic presbyterates; making sure priests take days off; general health issues, particularly diabetes, along with 'retirement' concerns; issues relating to disabilities of all types; a deeper spirituality to cope with present-day tensions; collaboration and communion; the presence of generalised depression. Today much needs to be done re acculturation processes at the provincial levels, also support for accused clergy in terms of procedural justice;
- With respect to the Information Bulletin, Frank indicated that some dioceses no longer send hard copies of documents to priests, rather by electronic means; while not ideal, it is likely that an electronic version will be made available to those three dioceses.
- The website carries a large among of good material, including a new section on Healthcare matters. Please encourage priests to visit the website.
iii) Meeting arrangements for 2011:
National Meeting 2011: 18 July - 22nd July 2011 at Mary MacKillop Place.
Regional Meetings 2011:
NSW/ACT: 17 - 20 January, Baulkham Hills, to be confirmed;
Q;LAND: 24-27 January at Santa Theresa Spirituality Centre, Ormiston;
SANTWA: 31 Jan - 4 February, place to be confirmed;
VIC/TAS: 7 - 9 February, place to be confirmed.
This session was followed by Mass celebrated by Bishop +Justin in the MacKillop Chapel. Frank invited representatives of the Sisters of St Joseph -- three members of the Administration Team (Sisters Eileen Lenehan, Sheila McCreanor, Annette Arnold) and three additional Sisters (Sisters Brigette Sipa, Judy Sipple, and Marie Dowling) to attend the Mass and the Formal Dinner to honour the Sisters in view of the forthcoming Canonisation of Mary MacKillop. The dinner was held at 6.30pm; the programme for the Canonisation was outlined by Sister Sheila McCreanor and each of the six Sisters had an opportunity to address the gathering, and identify their 'state of origin'!
Director, Office for Clergy Life and Ministry