In 2002 Bishop Vernon Fougere, aware of diminishment in the number of priests in the diocese, mandated a committee ”to explore the possibility of initiating a Parish Pastoral Associates program for the diocese. The role of these Associates is “to complement that of the priest and is not meant to replace him.” While the need for Pastoral Associates came about because of a diminishment of ordained clergy, it is also the baptismal call of the laity to serve the church in this way. This original committee did much research and had many discussions on this topic. It was decided to set up a program to train Parish Pastoral Associates to serve in their own particular parish.
In 2003 a committee was put in place whose mandate was “to develop guidelines and processes” to be used “for the formation and support of Parish Pastoral Associates." This committee was also responsible for developing a Program of Formation and the first program began in September, 2004.
Choosing Candidates for the Program
The Committee developed a Discernment Process that could be used to call forth and choose participants for the program. This Discernment Process included the Pastor, Parish Pastoral Council and members of the parish.
After looking at the future of their parish and what was needed, they then called forth persons whom they saw as having the gifts needed for this ministry. These people in turn did their own discernment before making their decision.
- The Program is a two year commitment, ten live-in weekends a year
- The topics covered included Scripture, Sacraments, Church Teachings, Canon Law, Justice, Ethics, Christian Values
- There are also sessions on the practical day to day Pastoral Ministry(RCIA, Youth, Baptism/Marriage Preparation, Wake Services, Liturgy of the Hours, ministry to elderly, mentally challenged, addicted, etc.)
- There is also a strong Personal Growth component to the Program This includes elements from Clinical Pastoral Education, Personal Growth, Communication, Personal Prayer Life, etc.
- Resource Personnel come from the clergy, sisters and laity of the diocese
Installation and Recognition
At the end of the two-year program, the Bishop goes to each individual parish to install the Pastoral Associate at a Sunday Liturgy.
Length of Mandate/Salary
The Associate begins with a two year mandate which may or may not be renewed. Number of hours and salary are worked out in the individual parish with some guidelines from the diocese if needed.
To date the diocese has run two courses with a total of 15 members being installed to serve in their parishes.