FAITH MATTERS: A New Way to Listen

Our Lenten journey is a time for internal and external reflection and deep listening. The Paschal mystery, that is, the life, death and resurrection is revealed to us during this period and Easter brings blessings of new life and fresh beginnings.

In February this year the new Pastoral Placement Participants (PPP) for 2023 and the international clergy who have recently arrived in our diocese gathered one day a week over a six-week period to complete the Introductory to the Clinical Pastoral Education course.

The course is an introduction to the theory and practice of pastoral/spiritual care. It is a qualification required by NSW Health for those wishing to become hospital visitors. It covers such topics as listening skills, empathy, grief and loss, self-awareness, and hospital procedures.

While this course is essential for our clergy who regularly visit hospitals it is a great place for the PPP’s to start their time in Pastoral Ministries, as part of the program they will be placed into services such as St Vincent de Paul, Mum’s Cottage, Catholic Care, the Refugee Hub and The Mission to Seafarers. Having the skills of active listening are essential when talking to anyone at any time no matter who they are.

Each week I was excited to visit the group to see how things were progressing and to my delight I could see how comfortable everyone was becoming as they started to learn more about each other and form a bond.

After six-weeks family and friends gathered for the group’s graduation. It was during the ceremony that each participant reflected on what they had experienced and learnt over the course.

Many reflected on the course heightening the importance of developing relationships and really taking the time to listen.  For others it provided a gentle journey of self-reflection and an awakening of awareness of the need to slow down and listen and knowing when to be quiet. The course allowed participants to meet themselves and explore their own reactions and thoughts around some of the hardest things that humans must think about and acknowledge.

Morgan Owens (PPP) reflects:

“Pastoral Care is more than just making someone feel better with a few kind words. It’s not solving people’s problems but offering them a calm presence and an empathetic ear. It is a gift to be given, often by the wounded healer; an individual who can sit with others through the depths of their anguish. I have learnt skills that will serve me as I will be doing some pastoral care visits to our local aged care facilities as part of my Pastoral Placement.  Being able to undertake CPE with the wonderful clergy members was an honour all by itself. As someone who is relatively new to the church it felt like a privilege to spend time and develop relationships with our clergy. Their theological knowledge added an extra layer of depth to everything we learnt in this course.”

Asher Watters-Cowen (PPP) reflects:

“I have found that this Clinical Pastoral Education course has been extremely beneficial to my development as a Christian. Like many of the opportunities that the Pastoral Placement offers me, I feel that the Introductory CPE course allowed me to greater expand my vocabulary of skills as led by the Spirit. My skills have been developed as an active listener and responder to those I will encounter in my future, both in parish and workplace settings.

The most valuable skill that I have been able to develop in this course is the consideration of overcoming cultural barriers when engaging in pastoral conversations. My peers and cohort from Australia, India, Sri Lanka and Nigeria have highlighted the need to always consider the cultural contexts of those to whom we pastorally attend, and to view the individual, the ‘human document’, as a person who shares a common humanity with us, and a right to be listened to, and loved as Christ pastorally loves us, can calls us to pastorally love.”

A Introductory Clinical Pastoral Education course is being planned 17 July – 21 August at MacKillop Parish. Please contact me at to be sent an application form.

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