By Natashya Fernandez
Since the revamp and implementation of a new constitution and mandate for the Archdiocesan Plan: Support for Clergy; one year on, the implementation phase is well under way.
In an interview with The eRecord, Coordinator of Support for Clergy Father Peter Bianchini talks about the importance of clergy life and the two significant papal documents – Pastores Dabo Vobis and The Gift of Priestly Vocation, which the plan will follow.
Following the retirement of the Board for Clergy Life and Ministry (BCLaM) that was responsible for the ongoing education for clergy, Fr Bianchini said the plan’s Support for Clergy was created to ensure that clergy are supported spiritually, pastorally, professionally and materially in their role as shepherds of the people entrusted in their pastoral care.
“The Archbishop has said that this part of the plan is really important because if the priests aren’t looked after, a lot of things will fall down. It is a significant move and care for the clergy is very real now,” he added.
Referencing the documents that the plan will follow, he said Pastores Dabo Vobis, Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation on priesthood will be used to focus on the ongoing education of clergy, and The Gift of Priestly Vocation, will add to it as it is more in-depth.
“Pastores Dabo Vobis speaks about the formation of the spiritual, human, intellectual and personal (SHIP) and the SHIP aspect of formation is very important. The Gift of Priestly Vocation is built on Pastores Dabo Vobis, in the sense that it continues the theme of seminary formation but also talks about the ongoing formation of clergy.
“The document is quite specific and says that formation is from really the time before you enter the seminary until you die. It is quite specific,” Fr Bianchini said.
He added that while there was a lot to look at in terms of formation, the new board overseeing the implementation of the plan have narrowed it down to a targeted four – Pre-seminary to end of seminary; first 10 years after ordination; from 10 until retirement and those in retirement.
Still in the planning phase, Fr Bianchini said that they will be meeting with the four groups to come up with a schedule and once agreed, the implementation will get underway.
“At the moment we are working out a framework to give us direction in how to proceed in these four areas, we will continue to run the retreats, seminars and different courses.
“Apart from these four areas, we will still be responsible for the sabbaticals, and some minor changes have been made to the policy.
“I hope to start organising meetings with the under 10s (seminary) and moving forward with that,” he explained.
While the plan is designed for the Archdiocese of Perth, he said that every diocese does something different.
“The Archdiocese of Brisbane and Melbourne are very highly run and organised. Other dioceses might just organise a retreat and seminar, so it varies from diocese to diocese.
“We would like to put the four stages in place by the end of the year and we will run all of them together and through the year,” he added.
“The four stages are the most significant for us in terms of providing direction, mentoring and spiritual services and I can’t wait to get started with the implementation of this plan.
“It is essential that priests, deacons, seminarians as well as retired priests through this plan are able to have a more vibrant life within the Archdiocese,” he concluded.