FAITH MATTERS: My Year in the Pastoral Placement Program

Being part of Pastoral Placement Program (PPP), this year has provided moments where I have proven to myself that I am a lot more capable than I think I am and that times of spiritual and personal growth have been abundant. There have been many highlights I have experienced in 2022 through being engaged in this program.

The Introductory Clinical Pastoral Education course was an unreal experience of sharing experiences of grief, faith, and catharsis. A lot of tears were shed (happy and sad) but the group were all there for each other during the sessions. Being able to share these emotions and reflecting with strangers who would quickly become friends was liberating and was so faith affirming in seeing God in the kindness of strangers.

I learnt that self-preservation and knowing your limits are essential prerequisites to be selfless and generous to others when offering support, to be able to listen and be fully present with someone. Sometimes all you need to do is listen and be comfortable in the silences.

Another highlight would be at Upcycle when we were repurposing pillowcases and sewing them into bags. I never thought I would be able to sew because I was constantly told by teachers that I ‘was a left-hander growing up in a right handers world.’ So, I’ve always been apprehensive about trying activities ‘designed for right-handers.’ Kath (the founder of Upcycle) has taught me that I can do anything if I put my mind to it. I couldn’t sew a perfect case the first go, but I eventually got it! I later then got to start a rag rug which I am still working on.

During my time at Activ8 I learnt about embracing both who I am and accepting the gifts God has given me. The youth group in East Maitland was such a positive experience; I was pushed outside my comfort zone. Rebecca and Millie were so kind to me in getting me involved and encouraging me to be myself. I went from being shy with the kids to loud and quirky in no time and the kids were amazing! It was wonderful to see how keen they were to participate in Mass, and I could feel such a strong presence of God at Activ8, and it was always an uplifting experience.

At my time at Mum’s Cottage, I met Sr Helen who radiates love and kindness. Her words of affirmation made me look at what I want out of life, she could sense that I was ‘hungry for love’ and I was ‘on the right path to God.’ Despite all my doubt I knew that deep down she was right.

Another experience at Mum’s Cottage’s was a conversation I had with a volunteer about our faith, and she said, ‘It’s okay to be angry with God.’ That permission enabled me to do a rethink about God. That afternoon I sat in my car talking (there was a bit of yelling and crying) to God, giving him a recap of my life, as if he’d missed all of it when all along, he was the footsteps carrying me when I was weak and lost.

Daniel Lee (also part of the PPP) has been a mentor and great friend and a gift to journey with. He was the first person in my designated parish to make me feel welcome and he encouraged me to participate in Mass. Daniel has taught me a lot about ways of practicing my faith in and outside the church space, like, exercising compassion and forgiveness or reflecting on the scriptures. Daniel was and still is a person I confide in, in times of spiritual crisis to spiritually reground myself and he has inspired me to trust in God in times of distress and actively practice my faith.

Part of the Pastoral Placement Program is to create a project proposal. There were so many placements that inspired my project.

All the placements I entered, whether it be St Vincent de Paul, Mum’s Cottage, the Catholic Society at the University, I was always welcomed with open arms. Every volunteer and coordinator made me feel like I was in a space where I belonged. It felt like a very tightly knit community. This settling in made it easier for me to be authentic and real. I discovered so many things about myself and my faith because I was given the freedom to explore and find what God was calling me towards, in ministry, career, and life. Pairing this with the time I had Activ8, and I feel that my ministry is in youth and music as I have always done music ministry even before PPP. I thought creating a space where children can have that same freedom as I did would be a great way to get youth more engaged and active throughout parish and diocese.

I hope to see the program called ‘Mountain Movers’ go ahead in the future especially in lower-socio-economic parishes or communities and promoted by schools and work with them to coordinate youth masses or preparation for sacraments as extensions of this proposal.  

I came into the program lost and my faith was barely present. I’d grown up in church, I knew all the right things to say, how to regurgitate mass responses but I never made a meaningful connection. However, since starting the PPP I have been on a spiritual odyssey where I have experienced many moments of clarity and doubts of faith that have subsided through deep reflection and perspective. 

This article was written by Kathleen Soo. 

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