Appeal for Church to think differently

Restauranters and café owners in New Zealand turned off their lights this week highlighting their staff shortages and inability to bring in labour from overseas.

It is a labour shortage echoed by a local priest!

“I wonder if I should turn out the lights in Church on Sunday?” he asked.

The priest does not want to be identified.

“You know the shortage of restaurant workers has a parallel in the Church”, he commented to CathNews; adding, he is the parish priest of what were four parishes.

“How many more parishes will I have to take on?”

The priest acknowledged there were benefits in combining parishes; ‘economies of scale’; one secretary, one accountant, one parish council, but said while these are vital roles, it is not really the point.

“They’re hubs of faith”, he said.

He thought the Amazon Synod might have delivered married priests, ‘viri probati’, he is now hopeful he will get help from overseas priests.

“It’s either that (priests from overseas) or the Church needs to seriously think about how it can change its model of ministry in parishes”.

The priest told CathNews that in his opinion Bishop Vincent Long from Parramatta has put out the challenge not only to Australia, but New Zealand too.

“Long’s ‘on the money’, the days of a Church based on a clerical model are over”.

Pressed, he agreed the Church takes a long term view but emphasised, “I need a solution, and if I’m honest, ideally now, but certainly soon”.

Right behind the New Zealand synod, he is of the view the New Zealand Church, “at least”, needs a decent organisational change strategy accompanied by a lot of prayer.

“I hope we all bring our ears to the New Zealand Synod conversations.”

The priest acknowledged two of the parishes he serves are small, but does not think closing them down is the solution.

“It’s certainly time to stop thinking in the old ways; shutting things down when one priest can no longer supply services in the same way, particularly in rural areas, disrespects people’s lives, their faith and the Church’s commitment to the local community”.

The priest acknowledged parishes need priests, and then went on to say, “we’re not the only component in parishes.”

“We need to approach the various situations with pastoral sensitivity”.

“We’re not a branch of a bank that closes when the rent outweighs the number of transitions”, he said.

“We need to approach the matter differently.

“We need to think differently”.

“Gerry Arbuckle calls is it ‘refounding the Church’.

“I always thought that was a ‘tall order’, but perhaps I should read his book again; this time with ‘different eyes'”.

The priest says he keeps a watch on the News and wondered at the time about the impact of the Government’s new immigration settings.

Responding to the ‘immigration reset’, Westpac economists say the Government’s announced review into migration settings will result in a “significant tightening” in the form of tougher skills requirements for new migrants.

The bank’s Satish Ranchhod says a tightening in migration settings will see a big change when the borders reopen.

Net migration is likely to settle around 30,000 per annum which is about half of what New Zealand saw over much of the past decade.

Asking the priest if he was aware the Immigration Department has a special category for religious workers, the priest replied, “yes”, followed quickly by, “And they don’t have to buy a house”.

“The fact is, for some time now priests haven’t been coming and it seems they are not coming”.

“It’s post-lockdown and New Zealand is not open, the world is way off safely being fully open and I suspect we need to think differently”.



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News category: New Zealand.

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