Pastoral associate aiming to hit the right notes

By Simon Hart

‘Tiring!’ laughs Joanne Wallace when asked how she is finding her role as an Archdiocesan pastoral associate. In truth, though, it a role she is relishing.

‘I’ve had a really warm welcome from everyone,’ says Joanne, a mother of three and former English teacher, who, since January, has been working in the parishes of St Marie’s and St Bernadette’s, and St Teresa’s in the Upholland pastoral area.

‘I’ve been met with a lot of positivity – a lot of people have said how much we need this. It’s been lovely to go out with Eucharistic ministers, visiting the sick and the housebound and developing that parish connection,’ she adds. ‘I was talking to Father John Hindley, who is my line manager, and we both agreed the pastoral associate is a unique role. You’re sharing some of that responsibility the priest has to care for the community and nurture the community.’

In her case, ‘community’ means two separate parishes – and a quest to create links between them. ‘I’ve set up a meeting with all the children’s liturgy catechists,’ she says by way of example, ‘and they’re all willing to try new things and find new resources.’

The principle challenge to date, she observes, is ‘getting across to people what an associate is because as an Archdiocese we’re still finding our way with it. One way is to communicate through newsletters, which I am doing, but until people are used to what this new role is, you understand some are going to be a little sceptical as to what it entails. Communication is the key thing.’

For Joanne, it feels a wholly natural step to be working for the Archdiocese given her long history of involvement in parish life. Growing up in St Margaret Mary’s, Knotty Ash, she was already ‘helping to lead a music ministry at the age of 15’.

She believes her experience as an English teacher – spells at St Edmund Arrowsmith Catholic High School in Prescot, The Grange academy in Runcorn, and Chesterfield High School in Crosby – will also help, and while she stepped away from teaching after the birth of her third child, Fraser, her passion for music endures.

‘I write my own music – I do worship music and liturgical music,’ explains Joanne. Her music had already brought her into contact with one of her designated parishes, St Marie’s, through two concerts she played there last year and in December, pupils from St Marie’s primary school performed an original Nativity musical she has composed.

She continues: ‘I think music is one way to tap in with young people and to capture their interest and realise that when they’re singing is an expression of faith and brings them together as a community. That is always my angle – can you use music to engage people and keep the youngsters?’ Her daughters Ava and Eliza, incidentally, are just two of the recruits for the music group she has set up at her home parish, St Wilfrid’s in Garston.

‘I’m a great promoter of music ministry and that is an area we need to look at developing in terms of how we support music groups in the Archdiocese,’ she reflects. ‘Music groups all run on good will and volunteers but you need to ask what are we doing to support that?’ Just one on a long list of questions to tackle in her new role.