Diocesan Association of Pastoral Ministers closes after 40 years

Late last year, the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle said goodbye to one of its longest-running groups – the Diocesan Association of Pastoral Ministers.

Since the 1980s, the group has operated across a number of regions and names. Formerly it was known as the Association of Lay Pastoral Associates and was largely supported by our Religious Sisters.

The purpose of the group was to encourage communication and resource sharing for lay people, Religious Sisters, and Deacons involved in Church Ministry, for example, through activities like Chaplaincy.

These Pastoral Associates were employed by the Parish and would step into various duties to assist the Priest or to fill in when the Priest was not available. This could be anything from answering phones and paying bills to visiting the sick and conducting funerals.

Former member and Forster Parish Parishioner Greg Byrne said it was a great opportunity to learn from others and increase your skills.

During his time in the group, Greg was involved in a National Convention of Priests and Pastoral Associates, the NSW Association of Priests and Pastoral Associates and the Australian Catholic Bishops Council for Lay Pastoral Ministry. As the result of six years on the Bishops’ Council a document “Faithful Stewards of God’s Grace” was produced which provides a solid theological and pastoral underpinning for lay pastoral ministry.

Despite being saddened by the closure, Greg is grateful for what the association offered our Diocese and its members.

“I am proud of what the association has done, we've been a good support to one another over the years,” he said.

He hopes lay people continue to be involved in the Church and believes they are a vital part of the future of the Catholic faith.

“It’s our Baptismal responsibility to be involved,” he explains. “The Second Vatican Council called the laity out of passivity into active participation in the ministry of the Church.”

“A lot of younger people are leaving the church because they don’t feel connected anymore. We must involve them in the activity of the Church so that they take up responsibility for its life. The church is going in many different directions while we explore what comes next.

“The challenge now is to keep the church united while we’re looking to what the future might be.”

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