Information Bulletin 72

March 2005

Dear brothers in ministry
I’m writing this in Geraldton, WA, in the middle of my Lenten journey. I had the first Sunday of Lent in Queanbeyan NSW, where I live. The second, I was in Katherine NT; the third in Broome Cathedral, WA; I plan to have the fourth in Perth, the fifth in Renmark SA, and be back home for Palm Sunday.
My annual trek to the north and west allows me to meet and spend time with bishops and priests (and a few deacons) who live and minister in places with vast distances, few resources, and a climate that is often extreme, especially at this time of the year.
Some live in mining towns where almost the whole population moves in and out every couple of years. Some are in Aboriginal communities with their special challenges.
Some are Australian-born, while others come from Poland, Ireland, Jamaica, Nigeria, India, Tanzania, to name just a few. Some are diocesan clergy, others belong to a variety of orders and societies. Most live simple, even frugal, lives.
To you, the clergy of Port Pirie, Darwin, Broome and Geraldton whom I’ve met this Lent, thanks again for being inspired bearers, in your lives, of the Good News.
Peter Brock, Executive Officer

{/slide} {slide=Meeting of the National Commission}


Our National Commission held its six-monthly meeting at the Passionist Monastery, Adelaide, in January.
The Commission has twelve members. There are two bishops from the Bishops Committee for Clergy and Religious (currently Bishops Don Sproxton - Perth, and Joseph Oudeman OFMCap – Brisbane); five diocesan directors of clergy life and ministry, one from each ecclesiastical province (Frs. Peter Bianchini - Perth, Adrian Noonan - Port Pirie, Mark Freeman - Hobart, Vince Redden - Sydney and Dave O’Connor - Brisbane); two representatives of the Australian Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes (Fr Denis Travers CP and a current vacancy after Sr Vivienne Keely CHF finished her time with the Commission); and three lay people (Mrs Pauline Peters - Brisbane, Ms Mary Cameron - Melbourne, now replaced by Mrs Carmel Fitzgerald - Bendigo and Mr Denys Goggin - Sydney).
We welcomed Mrs Carmel Fitzgerald, newly appointed to replace Ms Mary Cameron as one of the three lay members of the Commission. Carmel is a pastoral assistant in Bendigo and has been active in the RCIA at state and national level. We farewelled and thanked Mary Cameron for her valued and enthusiastic contribution during her term.
Commission President, Bishop Don Sproxton, reported on Episcopal Conference discussions on matters involving clergy. Among these was the challenge of providing the Eucharist to outback, remote and isolated communities. This important issue will be taken up by the diocesan directors at their national meeting in Sydney in June. The theme for this meeting will be the Eucharist.
Deacon Shane O’Dea, who is the Bishops’ Coordinator/Promotions Officer for the Permanent Diaconate, and who lives in Adelaide, attended our meeting, and helped us engage in a valuable discussion about the Permanent Diaconate in Australia.
Our meetings are solid and hard-working, with time structured for the Eucharist, the Prayer of the Church and other reflection time. At the end of our meeting we happily accepted the hospitality of Fr Charles Gauci, who took us on a visit to that part of his parish that includes McLaren Vale.
For more information about the Commission, its membership, constitution, etc., visit our website:
{/slide} {slide=Clergy Appraisal}


At Easter this year (actually, on April Fools Day!) I will have completed my first three-year term in this ministry. In the middle of last year I had a formal review of my work and, following the appraisal, I was appointed for a second three-year term.
In 36 years of priesthood, it was the first time I had had any formal review or appraisal.
Questionnaires were sent to members of the National Commission, to the members of the Bishops Committee for Clergy and Religious, to the diocesan directors of clergy life and ministry around the country, and one was sent to me to fill out. Each was accompanied by a copy of my job description, and the questions were along the lines of “what is he doing well, what could he do better?”
Despite some nervousness, I found the exercise very worthwhile. The answers to the first question were affirming, and the answers to the second were valuable in helping me see how I might do some
For example, it was noted by a couple of respondents (including by me) that, while I have generally done well in meeting the clergy of the regional and remote dioceses, I have been less successful in meeting and engaging with significant numbers of clergy from the large capital city dioceses. As a result, I am committed to giving more attention to this in the coming years, attending and participating in clergy gatherings as often as possible in the capital cities.
Our National Commission has also decided to try to engage more with the clergy in the capital cities. We have decided that next year we will hold our January Commission Meeting in Perth and this time we will schedule extra time during the meeting so that we can hold a gathering to which we will invite the clergy of Perth (and the other dioceses in the West). We hope to share with the clergy in the West something of what we are thinking about and working on in the Commission, and to see something of the life of the local church.
Presuming this exercise is successful, we hope to use the same approach when holding future Commission Meetings in other capital cities.
I would encourage all clergy (not only priests, but bishops and deacons too) to consider the occasional formal review of their ministry. This was one of the topics of last year’s national meeting of diocesan directors of clergy life and ministry in Sydney, so your diocesan director will be able to suggest practical ways in which this can be done. {/slide} {slide=Is this your Diocese?} MIGHT THIS BE YOUR DIOCESE?
The diocesan directors of clergy life and ministry have been holding their regional meetings. Here are some quotes:
  • “Morale is pretty good, except for the ageing presbyterate – there’s a big cloud over the younger fellows, about what it’s going to be like in, say, ten years time”
  • “We can’t shuffle the deckchairs any more – the deck’s too big and there aren’t enough deckchairs”
  • “We have more laypeople in our diocese with three-year certificates in pastoral training than we have priests”
  • “In regard to clergy life and ministry, I see so much to be done, but I just can’t do it”
  • “The little country towns are dying rapidly; other places are growing hugely”
  • "Pastoral planning seems to consist of 'you just get another parish'."
My recent reading has included Voices from the Council. The book consists of interviews with bishops, theologians, observers etc. who were present at Vatican II. It is worth getting hold of the book if only for the interview (conducted by Fr Russell Hardiman) with Bishop Myles McKeon (former Bishop of Bunbury).
Voices from the Council, Michael R. Prendergast & M.D.Ridge (ed.). Pastoral Press, Portland Oregon 2004. ISBN 1-57992-119-1, $62.95. {/slide} {slide=Clergy Honoured} CLERGY HONOURED
Three of our clergy were recently honoured with the Medal of the Order of Australia:
  • Fr Paul Hanna OAM, Quakers Hill NSW, for service to the community of Mount Druitt, particularly through the social welfare programs of the Holy Family Parish.
  • Fr Francis McLaughlin OAM, Balwyn Vic, for service to the community through the Catholic Church.
  • Fr Gerald Medici OAM, Thornbury Vic, for service to the community of Thornbury, particularly through St Mary’s Catholic Parish.
This public recognition of valued work will be welcomed by us all, and particularly by those who have shared their lives and ministry. {/slide}
  • Created: 01 March 2005
  • Modified: 23 April 2009