Guidelines for Team Ministry and Pastoral Units


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Introduction from Bishop Brendan Leahy

In introducing team ministry and pastoral units, I believe God is at work. Change isn’t easy but just as it is necessary in our own personal lives (for instance, a child changes to become an adolescent and then an adult with many changes through life), likewise in the Church we too constantly need to reform and renew our Church life.

Priests will always be necessary. But it is also true that today we are seeing a deep discovery that every baptised person has a vocation. Pope Francis writes that each baptised person “is” a mission. Lay people live out their baptismal vocation in different ways – in family life, in the workplace, in various social projects. But one way today of living out our baptismal vocation is to take a more direct role in the organisation and day-to-day life of the Church in our local area.

I believe that through all that is going on God is drawing out a new lay profile of the Church. We will see a more prominent role of lay people in the running of parishes in the future. There is a considerable decline in the number of priests, the age profile of priests is rising, there are increasing demands, bureaucratic and otherwise on priests today. It is clear that on a practical level, something needs to be done.

Our new arrangements are not, however, just about responding to the decline in the number of priests. For the past fifty years, the Catholic Church throughout the world recognises we need to work more in a team spirit. It is something Pope Francis underlines when he speaks of “synodality”. We journey to God together. We need to promote arrangements that encourage greater co-operation and exchange between parishes.

The steps we are taking together are in tune with the phenomenon the world over, that is, a realisation that there needs to be greater collaboration and togetherness than before, whether it be in dealing with the issue of global warming, peace-keeping or combatting social problems. The Spirit of God is prompting this new sense of inter-dependence.

It is worthwhile hearing Pope Francis’ words who urges us to take new steps for the sake of mission:

I dream of a “missionary option”, that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channelled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation. The renewal of structures demanded by pastoral conversion can only be understood in this light: as part of an effort to make them more mission-oriented, to make ordinary pastoral activity on every level more inclusive and open…1

The 2016 Synod offered us important signposts to guide us in the steps we need to take at this stage of our journey in the Diocese. One of these steps is the development of “team ministry”. In the past two years we have worked on this and consulted widely and are now at a point of arranging our Diocese into Pastoral Units with teams of clergy ministering in each unit.