Message from Father Matthew Muller

This time last year I was just beginning my new role. I would like to take this opportunity to share some of the achievements that have occurred since then.

In co-operation with Teresa Brierley, Fathers Brian Mascord, Peter Rees and Tony Brady, we have worked to finalise a religious house in the diocese for six Sisters from the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Nha Trang (Vietnam). At the moment Sisters work in Wallsend-Shortland and Sugarloaf Parishes.

The clergy and the lay leaders involved in parish leadership have developed a draft handbook on faculties and instructions. This booklet clarifies their responsibilities, delegations, permissions and accountabilities and will assist them in their ministry. The process we used in developing this draft handbook utilised workshops, individual contributions and open forum discussions to achieve a wide level of agreement and support for the document. It is hoped to finalise the document in 2018.

The clergy in partnership with the Trustees of the Diocese, the Council of Priests and the College of Consultors also worked through a similar consultative process to draft a set of statutes that define how each of these bodies will operate. These statutes allowed new members of these bodies to be appointed in February 2017. Given recent civil law changes and the development in civil law to place more responsibility on the Trustees of the Diocese for civil law compliance, such clarity is essential. I am grateful to Nicola Arvidson (our in-house legal counsel) and Peter Owens for their civil law support in this process. To assist the Trustees in understanding the change in their responsibilities, especially within Catholic Education, a training day on Catholic education governance was organised. The Trustees will continue to work with the compliance officers in each of the diocesan agencies to ensure compliance with all government legalisation.

Workshops were run throughout 2016-17 to assist those in parish leadership to understand their role in complying with civil legislation. These workshops included topics such as child protection, human resources and volunteers, professional supervision, ongoing formation processes, workplace health and safety, outcomes from the Royal Commission, bequests and wills, and school-parish licence agreements. The next step in this process is a planning day involving all parish leaders to develop a formation plan for 2018-19.

I look forward to continuing this ministry and working with all concerned in the coming year.

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Fr Matthew Muller

Fr Matthew Muller is the Chancellor and Canonical Advisor in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.