Launching out, New Zealand style

The prayer that began the meeting of members of the diocesan community with Cardinal John Dew of the Archdiocese of Wellington, New Zealand, urged us to “see signs of hope in a sometimes seemingly hopeless world.”*

After a few hours of easy yet profound conversation with Cardinal “call me John” Dew, I concluded that he is one of those signs of hope.

While the Cardinal visited the Hunter Valley to be guest speaker at the conference of NSW Catholic school principals, “Encounter New Horizons”, he made time to share his diocese’s innovative leadership program, “Launch Out” with locals.

“Launch Out” (Luke 5:4) is a positive response to two facts: the number of ordained men able to lead parish communities does not equal the number of parish communities, and the gifts of leadership do not reside only in the ordained.

As the archdiocesan website indicates, Launch Out forms women and men for lay pastoral leadership roles in parishes and chaplaincies in the Archdiocese.

It requires candidates to undertake academic study; spiritual direction, prayer days and an annual retreat and parish pastoral experience projects, and bi-annual reviews.

Individual contact and support are integral to this 4-6 year program during which candidates proceed at their own pace.

Cardinal Dew spoke of the fruitful partnerships that continue to be formed among ordained leaders and lay parish leaders, strengthened by mentoring, spiritual direction and professional supervision. 

Rather than a response to crisis/opportunity, this strategy recognises that “We share co-responsibility because of our baptism.”

Citing the first parish leader who emerged from “Launch Out”, Cardinal Dew told the people of God in the parish in which she ministered, “Cushla is not working for Father, she’s working with Father.”

“Launch Out”, and likewise the archdiocesan synod which will take place in September, are grounded in prayer and scripture, contemplative listening and a desire to serve.

Asked what is required of those who would lead, Cardinal Dew offered two essentials:

Firstly, “Leadership is always about service – foot-washing – looking for opportunities to serve the People of God.” 

Secondly, quoting US President Harry Truman, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”

Finally, and still on the subject of leadership, it was pointed out that on the morning that the Cardinal was speaking, Pope Francis had met President Donald Trump. The President had arrived in a motorcade of many vehicles. The Pope has driven himself in his Ford Focus.

Who is the leader?

*“To Live the Creed” created by Education Officers from the RE & Spirituality Services at the Catholic Schools Office, Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

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Tracey Edstein

Tracey Edstein is a member of the Raymond Terrace Parish and a freelance writer with a particular interest in church matters.

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