Speaking recently in Bolivia, Pope Francis addressed participants of the second World Meeting of Popular Movements, an international body that brings together organisations of people on the margins of society, including the poor, the unemployed and peasants who have lost their land.
Calling for a new economic order, Pope Francis said “Let us not be afraid to say it: we want change, real change, structural change.”
"This system is by now intolerable: farm workers find it intolerable, labourers find it intolerable, communities find it intolerable, peoples find it intolerable. The earth itself - our sister, Mother Earth, as Saint Francis would say - also finds it intolerable," he said in an hour-long speech that was interrupted by applause and cheering dozens of times.
Reading about this call to action to the governments of the world to address economic injustices that exclude the poor from full participation in the decision-making processes and governance structures that have such a profound impact on their lives, I wondered if Pope Francis has considered the structures in our own Church especially the ones that exclude the full participation of the laity. I recently came across the expressions “cultural violence,” “structural violence,” and “structural abuse” which have given me much to consider in the context of Pope Francis’ recent comments. I would encourage you to look up these expressions and consider how they might apply to the current structures of our Church and society (think about domestic violence, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, sexism, misogynism, religious intolerance).
On a lighter (but somewhat related) note, I had the pleasure and privilege of addressing a gathering of about 22 Pastoral Associates in Melbourne recently.
Pastoral Associates minister collaboratively with priests and parishioners to support the people of God in their faith journeys. They provide leadership in areas such as worship, formation, outreach and pastoral care.
If you are involved or interested in Lay Pastoral Ministry I recommend that you visit the Association of Pastoral Associates of the Archdiocese of Melbourne’s web-site and even consider attending their Annual Conference in September . For further information I also recommend visiting the Archdiocese of Melbourne’s Secretariat for Lay Ecclesial Ministry.
My work with the Australian Catholic Council for Lay Pastoral Ministry has really opened my eyes to this important ministry in the Catholic Church in Australia and the challenges that lay ministers face in their roles. I have a strong sense that the role of the Lay Pastoral or Lay Ecclesial minister will find an increasingly important (and valued) place in our emerging Church. Hopefully this will play a significant part in the structural reform that will need to take place to make the Catholic Church a more inclusive, relevant and accessible institution especially to those on the margins of the Church and society.
Addressing this important area of ministry is the work of the Australian Catholic Council for Lay Pastoral Ministry whose mandate states that its areas of responsibility include:
1. To support Lay Pastoral Ministers in their service to our Church,
2. To assist Lay Pastoral Ministers with accreditation and employment relations,
3. To promote the role and value of Lay Pastoral Ministers.
You can read the full mandate of the Australian Catholic Council for Lay Pastoral Ministry here:
Next month we hope to publish the first e-newsletter of the Australian Catholic Council for Lay Pastoral Ministry, so you will be able to read more about this exciting work.
Meanwhile here are some questions to ponder:
1. What are the structures that currently exclude women from participating in decision-making, leadership and lay pastoral ministry in your parish, diocese or community?
2. What are some structural changes our Church leadership might consider to enable more women to participate in decision-making, leadership and ministry?
3. How might these structural changes benefit our Church?
Blessings and peace,
Director, National Office for the Participation of Women
20 July 2015