Melbourne Catholic - April 2016 - page 11

Continued overleaf ...
Sr Michele, a Presentation sister, was one of the very first
pastoral associates (PA) in the Melbourne Archdiocese, receiving
her accreditation in 1986 from Archbishop Frank Little. Clearly
a ‘people person’, Sr Michele says of her time as a PA, ‘Never
a day would go by that I wouldn’t think I love coming to work!’
She was the PA at St Mary’s parish in Hampton for the past
eight-and-a-half years and officially retired from the ministry at
the end of last year. Previously, she served as PA at St Thomas
More parish in Hadfield for 15 years and St Francis Xavier parish
in Prahran for five years. She also served for five years on the
Diocesan Youth team.
Sr Michele considers the role of a PA to be one of journeying with
people in their faith. ‘You’re journeying with people and they’re
journeying with you too. It’s not one way, it’s very mutual. I’m as
nourished in my faith, as I hope I have helped other people to
be nourished in theirs. It’s the whole gamut of really walking and
journeying with people.’
Many Catholics may have heard the term ‘pastoral associate’
but are unsure what the role entails. Sr Michele describes it as
‘a role of professional leadership in the parish community, where
you work very closely with, and under the leadership of, the
parish priest. It’s a role of real collaboration. It’s visible leadership
and it has to be relational.’
According to the official ‘job’ description, a PA is a ‘significant
role in the parish, working collaboratively with the parish priest,
in developing and shaping the mission of the parish’. This
task includes ‘initiating and implementing pastoral programs,
encouraging the faithful to a deeper spiritual life, and drawing
them into roles within the parish’.
A parish priest appoints a PA to ‘assist in leading the mission and
pastoral care of the parish community, in accordance with the
precepts, teachings and practices of the Catholic Church’.
However, as Sr Michele points out, pastoral care involves a great
deal more than what the role officially requires. There are the
little, unseen things that are vital to pastoral ministry, such as
getting to know people, making them feel welcome, being aware
of the ups and downs in people’s lives and being there when they
need someone to talk to.
When Sr Michele Kennan PBVM talks
about her work over the past 30 years
in pastoral ministry in the Church her
face just beams with joy. ‘The journey
of a pastoral associate is really one
of immense joy and great privilege,’
she says.
Catherine Sheehan
The invitation of interruption
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