Now settled – indeed liturgically “installed” – at St Joseph’s Parish, Toronto, Brendon is officially and canonically the Parish Leader.
“What” many will need to ask, “is a Parish Leader?”
Not a parish priest! There is none at Toronto. There is a Priest Supervisor/Sacramental Priest, Fr Geoff Mulhearn, for those services that only ordination can provide.
Brendon and Fr Geoff were jointly installed in their respective roles by Bishop Bill at Mass celebrated at Kilaben Bay on 22 July. After individually announcing the offices each would assume, Brendon and Geoff together declared an Oath of Fidelity to carry out the duties incumbent on them – apostolic activity in union with the Church.
“Geoff and I were appointed ecclesiastically as a team,” says Brendon. “We work well together and I sound him out on many things, often.” No two days are alike in this new ministry it seems, and despite much thinking through of the challenges and situations anticipated, there is a fairly regular refrain of, “We haven’t thought about that yet.” Learning together, following the call to collaboration and co-responsibility, and “relying on the teams and talent around me”, Brendon exudes confidence that the “exciting and scary” enterprise will be blessed by the Lord.
Sharing the exciting and the scary is Brendon’s wife, Claire, and their young children. With Claire’s wholehearted support “we are serving as a family”. Brendon sees families in his parish and knows that his ministry “will only work if I share my vulnerability”.
What has Brendon’s tenure as leader at Toronto taught him so far? It has taught him that there is a broad spectrum of humanity within the parish – differences in experience, understanding, habits and expectations. One role for him is to bring this spectrum into unity, “to connect the dots in this community” so that it will “write a new story for who we are as the People of God”.
“Intentionally stepping back” is a practice Brendon employs to foster growth in his parish. As leader he is not the one to do all, and be responsible for everything. Stepping back, leaving a space, allows others to step into that space to exercise the baptismal and priestly responsibility and privilege they share with him.
“Who does the school pick up today?” is the issue Brendon and Claire decide when she phones during our interview session. Shared family tasks are part of it all.
Claire is more aptly the ‘Ruth’ to Brendon’s ‘Naomi’. She left her native Malta to be with Brendon wherever he goes. Did she ever imagine her husband as an antipodean Parish Leader? No, but faith-filled and wholeheartedly she accompanies him, and together they experience life in the Church as, in Brendon’s words, “the most exciting adventure”.