Clergy Development

Historical Context

INTRODUCTION

The reception of the Directory On The Ministry And Life Of Priests (1994) has led to a more formalised approach to the continuing formation of the clergy in the archdiocese in recent times.

Since 2006 the Episcopal Vicar for Formation has been mandated to organise, manage and over-see the On-Going Formation and Continuing Development of the Clergy through the department of Pastoral Formation.

Before 2006 no single archdiocesan department was mandated to over-see the management of an On-Going Formation Programme for the clergy. The formation that took place was a result of a wide range of initiatives and works from the various archdiocesan departments and personnel; most notably, resources and courses arranged by the Department of Pastoral Formation, the Archdiocesan Liturgy Commission, the Department of Finance and Development and the various enterprises by groups of like-minded clergy (such as; The Jesus Caritas group, the golfing fraternity, the walking fraternity), and personal initiatives by Archbishop Kelly and Bishop Malone.

CONTINUED FORMATION

The appointment of the present Archbishop came during a period when the archdiocese was reflecting on the need to implement structures, policies and guidelines for the protection of Children from abuse. This work, in many ways, dominated the type of continued formation that was available in the mid to late 1990’s. However, other initiatives for the On-Going Formation of clergy were still taking place at this time.

In 1997 a clergy working party was established to organise a pilot scheme for voluntary Priestly Appraisal throughout the archdiocese. The work of this group was finally ready for the pilot scheme which took place in the year 2000. Following the pilot scheme a period of minor adjustments, corrections and reflection resulted in Liverpool Archdiocese having the first Priestly Appraisal Programme available in England and Wales. The appraisal is designed to support and encourage the individual priest in his life and ministry; it identifies training needs and the strengths and weaknesses of the priest being appraised. It is designed also to assist the priest in his personal growth and development and to safeguard his physical, emotional and spiritual welfare. The priest may use the findings of his appraisal in his discussions with the archdiocesan authorities about any future appointment, or his life and ministry.

In 1998 the clergy, through the Council of Priests set aside time to reflect on the spirituality of diocesan priesthood. The facilitator of that reflection was the author of the book 'New Heart, New Models' (A Spirituality for Priests) by Fr. Daniel J. O’Leary.

Upholland College as a place for diocesan meetings and formation closed in 1999. This led to a minor vacuum in the type of continued formation available at the time. The Liverpool Centre for Evangelisation had not yet opened its doors and the new centre was unable to offer residential accommodation. During this time the Jesuit retreat centre - Loyola Hall at Rainhill, became a greater focal point for clergy formation than in the past. The diocesan retreat was organised through this centre as were days of recollection, which still continue for the clergy and people of the archdiocese today.

The archbishop not only made the gathering of the junior clergy an important priority but he also initiated the gathering of the entire presbyterate for prayer and reflection on Ash Wednesday and the Friday following the Feast of Corpus Christi each year.

In May 1999 the entire presbyterate met to discuss the future of the archdiocese and the changing face of priestly life and ministry in a fast approaching new millennium. This day of reflection was an important day, in that; it allowed the clergy and the diocesan authorities to see more clearly the need to work together and to prioritise, for the future, the needs of the archdiocese and the clergy as a whole. A follow-up meeting was arranged to bring together, in a cohesive way, the various reflections and issues raised at the May meeting. Other initiatives grew from the May meeting; such as, the meeting of clergy involved in the administration of two parishes, the meeting of the deans became more focused on discussing practical ways to develop the resources of the various deaneries in the light of an ever decreasing number of clergy, and an In-Service Programme was organised at Craxton Hall Hotel to examine various initiatives talking place in other dioceses in England and Wales and abroad.

These initiatives led to the clergy desiring a more formal structure and policy for Retreats, In-Service Training and Sabbatical Leave. A small working party, designed a scheme which was endorsed by the Council of Priests on 22 May 2002.

Applications for Sabbatical Leave, on the basis of three months leave every 15 years, are dealt with by an appointed panel.

THE RETIRED CLERGY

Priests who have retired from active ministry are the particular concern of an Episcopal Vicar. Their physical and emotional needs are met by the work of the George Andrew Committee. As well as this, the retired clergy are considered as vital to the life and mission of the archdiocese and many of them play an important role in supply work and in assisting the clergy in parishes in the administration of the Sacraments – particularly Services of Reconciliation during Advent and Lent. The archbishop has also introduced days of reflection for the retired clergy.

CONCLUSION

The On-Going Formation of the clergy continues to be of the utmost importance in the archdiocese and is linked to the work taking place in other dioceses throughout England and Wales through the National Meeting Of The Diocesan Director’s For On-Going Formation.