Meeting of the Parish of St Carthage’s, convened and chaired by Fr Joe Caddy, 11am, 4 July 2021
Attending: Fr Joe Caddy and around 60/70 members of the parish.
- Introduction. After an opening prayer, Fr Joe Caddy welcomed parishioners, thanked and acknowledged Father Michael Elligate for his 34 years with the Parish) and:
- Highlighted the imbalance in the distribution of priests between the inner city and outer suburbs of Melbourne where there are large numbers of Catholics compared to the small number in the inner city.
- Thanked Richard Curtain for his assistance in preparing an agenda for the meeting and providing an analysis of parish mass attendance and preparations for the parish meeting such as two Zoom meetings with interested parishioners, as well as those members of the Parish Pastoral Council who were in attendance.
He explained the context for the meeting, namely his having a full-time position as Vicar-General of the Melbourne archdiocese. In a situation of a limited number of ordained priests, there is an urgent need for the parish to establish how pastoral responsibilities can be maintained. There are moves for individual parishes to work together in “missions” to share resources, without eliminating individual parish communities. Fr Joe said he is appreciating getting to know the parish and its potential. Parishioners need to take responsibility for sharing pastoral duties.
- Feedback from two Zoom preparatory meetings
RC summarized conclusions from two Zoom meetings that he convened to consider proposals, relating to the need for some form of lay pastoral associate/ co-ordinator/leader, to develop various parish activities, and the need to improve communication within the parish.
- Results from 2017 parish survey
RC reported that the parish has attracted people from a wide region. Figures from a 2017 survey of responses from 121 parishioners indicated that while 30% would continue attending St Carthage’s, no matter who the pastor was, 59% indicated that this would depend on the calibre and approach of the new pastor, as well as other factors. The major issue raised in that survey and still a live current issue is that while there has traditionally been a sense of strong connection to the pastor, there has been a lack of connection between parishioners. While there are various groups within the parish, there are many people who do not know each other.
- Proposed criteria for a parish associate
Jan Curtain read aloud a report from Susan Frykberg about her experience as a lay pastoral co-ordinator in Palmerston North, New Zealand, assisting the parish in areas of liturgy, education, administration, pastoral care and prayer groups. This provided an example of what was possible.
Fr JC explained that such a position is permitted within the Code of Canon Law [no. 517 §2: ‘If, because of a lack of priests, the diocesan bishop has decided that participation in the exercise of the pastoral care of a parish is to be entrusted to a deacon, to another person who is not a priest, or to a community of persons, he is to appoint some priest who, provided with the powers and faculties of a pastor, is to direct the pastoral care.’] The terms of employment would be decided by the parish, subject to legal and supervisory requirements, but authorized by the local bishop. There is an important need to develop collaborative church leadership.
Questions were raised about who would pay for such a position. Fr JC explained that any such position has to be covered by the parish. The finance committee has to establish that the parish can afford such a position. There was discussion of how a top-down approach is not working; we are all called to be a priestly people, whether or not we are ordained.
- Meeting the constitutional requirements of the Parish Pastoral Council
Heather Weedon, as Chair of the Parish Pastoral Council, explained that original constitution had to be revised in order to comply with canon law, which allows for the establishment of a Pastoral Council that supports the parish priest in matters of pastoral concern, while also of a Finance Council (commonly referred to as the Finance Committee) that serves to advise the parish priest on issues of finance and management of the assets of the parish, while also reporting regularly to the Pastoral Council. The Pastoral Council has responsibility for co-ordinating various pastoral activities (in areas of liturgy, social outreach and education).
- Other parish matters discussed: current and future activities
Three main categories: (1) Liturgy, preparation, music, flowers, etc. for the church, hospitality group
(2) Social outreach (St Vincent de Paul, Caroline Chisholm Society, Brigidine Asylum Seeker Program; Grandmothers for Refugees, Australian Catholic Religious against Trafficking in Humans, etc.)
(3) Education (St Carthage’s Women’s morning reading group; feminist theology group, men’s reading group, etc.)
All three areas are important, but we need to get to know each other better. Various suggestions were made:
- Removing some chairs, to create a space at the back of the church for encouraging socialisation, perhaps providing facilities for tea/coffee
- Imitating the practice of Fr ME on Maundy Thursday, of placing the table of the Eucharist lengthwise, so that people could see each other across the table, and of sharing food and drink
- Having volunteers to share in various tasks: maintaining QR codes/hand sanitising; welcoming newcomers to the parish church
- Getting volunteers to help prepare young people for sacraments; children’s liturgy; preparing liturgy and maintaining flowers for Sundays (raising question of how to generate volunteers)
- Developing ecumenical and interfaith activities
- Working with the various university colleges, in particular Newman and St Mary’s
- Conducting a parish retreat
- Engaging a facilitator experienced in community development
- What are the Implications of Parish Modelling by the Archdiocese? Response: Fr JC reported that many inner-city parishes don’t have enough parishioners or finances and need rejuvenating in groups. The challenge is to build communities of parishes and share resources and get clergy to work together across the Diocese. St Carthage’s could work with North Fitzroy, Fitzroy, and Clifton Hill.
Q: How would a pastoral associate be appointed? Response: That it is up to us. The Parish Pastoral Council in consultation with the Parish community would draw up a Position Description.
- How would supervision of a pastoral associate occur? Response: Fr JC reported that the supervision of the clergy has been acted upon as a result of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse. The archdiocese provides strong moral encouragement for all to be supervised but it is mandatory for those newly ordained within the last few years to be supervised. There is a need to build up the number of supervisors. The Jesuits and Heart of Life are doing training. Pastoral/lay associates also need supervision.
We need to develop a Communications strategy, using the parish website as a point of communication. The parish is immensely grateful to Leanne Pereira, the new parish secretary, for starting this and for building up a database of active parishioners who identify with St Carthage’s. Social media is important too. Parishioners are urged to submit their current emails to the Parish Office, in the interests of building up such a database. There are many areas in which, if audited, the parish could find itself behind in legal requirements, such as working with children checks (for any involved In working with children), supervision of those appointed to positions of responsibility, and of maintaining signage in general relating to Covid-safe conduct, etc., subject to local government regulations.
It was observed that the parish is aging and capacity for voluntary work is limited. There is a need to recruit younger parishioners and young families.
Follow up: The Parish Pastoral Council needs to work out a way of implementing these proposals. Thanks were expressed to all who contributed to planning this meeting and working towards generating these proposals for consideration.
The meeting closed at 12.10pm. Minutes drawn up by Jan Curtain and Maryna Mews