Archived News Item

‘For Our Ministries To Flourish’ – 2018 Ministry Governance Forum

L to R: Jocelyn Bignold, Sylvia Williams RSM, Eileen Ann Daffy RSM, Kathleen Tierney RSM, Berice Livermore RSM and Virginia Bourke



Leaders of the Institute’s incorporated ministries have gathered for a forum whosefocus included the new Chapter Statement and models for delivering ministry into the future.


The sixth annual forum, which was held in Sydney on March 20 and 21, brought together leaders of the Institute’s incorporated ministries, the Institute Leadership Team, Community Leaders and some staff. The forum was facilitated by Anne Derwin RSJ.


The theme for this year’s forum was ‘For Our Ministries to Flourish’.


The forum began with a reflection on the implications for ministry of the 2017 Chapter Statement.


In a challenging and thought-provoking address, Institute Leader, Eveline Crotty RSM asked those present a series of questions arising from the Statement that included – “‘Am I really disturbed by the despair and suffering of many peoples and the degradation of Earth? Where are the new needs in my ministry that are emerging?  Am I hearing them? Do I ignore them with busyness or do I begin to delve further into the need that I hear arising? Be it to do with the Earth or peoples?”.


“Will we, all of us present, be impelled to reflective action for gospel justice to look at our service, move out of our comfort zone, re-examine it and if need be reach out beyond our present services to listen to those most disadvantaged and see what is needed to relieve some of “that despair and suffering?”.


“So at this time of global vulnerability what will impel us together to reflective action not just to bring about change but transformation which is real gospel justice?”, Eveline said.


Eveline said to ask these questions takes ‘courage, trust and hope’, it causes disruption and disorientation as we all seek to follow the example of Jesus to ‘Go and proclaim to the nations’.


“Now everyone is included – no one is to be excluded, not only the poor but the poorest of the poor,” Eveline said.


Elizabeth Dowling RSM provided a examination of the ‘Theology of Governance’, including reminding those gathered of a Retreat Instruction from Catherine McAuley in which she says, ‘It is not sufficient that Jesus Christ be formed in us – he must be recognized in our conduct’ (Retreat Instructions, page 72). Following on from Eveline, she asked the question ‘What decisions do we need to take so that our mission of Mercy can flourish?’. She said that the governance is a ministry in itself and was critical work being undertaken in the name of God’s mercy.


“The governance of our ministries is also holding our mercy traditions in trust. It is a critical work to be done in the name of God’s mercy. Governance is a critical work and each of our ministries are a critical works in bringing God’s mercy to people in need.


“What decisions do we need to take so that our mission of mercy can evolve to meet the needs of the times?”, she said.


Peter Cranko, a management consultant with a focus on social policy, strategy and organisational change, led a panel discussion ‘Future Governance Structures’ that featured Bill D’Apice (Board of Calvary Ministries Ltd), Dr Ricki Jeffery (Mercy Partners) and Mary Wright IBVM (Canon Lawyer).


Mary Wright IBVM said charisms are never like a little jewel box in a safe.


“In my experience, our understanding of our own charism developed enormously. I would hope that with lay leadership it does change but hopefully within the stream of authenticity,” said Sister Wright.


Day Two commenced with a session, on Canon Law, in which Mary Wright IBVM built on a her presentation to the 2017 forum by addressing a series of questions including  – ‘How do we value lay, communal and religious forms of ministry within the Church?’, ‘What provision does Canon Law make for lay governance of ministry?’ and ‘How do you define ‘authentic’ in your ministry of leadership?’.


“There is a whole lot about how we respond in this particular age… I think there is something else about this turbulence that is calling us to a different sort of response.


“We are heading in a direction we haven’t really seen before in the church. The sense of the vocation of the lay person as central to the church,” Sister Wright said.


Paul Jensen (Centacare South West New South Wales), Nikki Patten (General Counsel) and Margery Jackman (Professional Standards Officer), led a wide-ranging discussion on the personal and organisational response to the Australian Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.


Paul spoke of the guilt and shame rightly being experienced by the Catholic Church following the horrific revelations at the recent Royal Commission. Nikki outlined the key recommendations of the Royal Commission and how the Church and Institute have responded and will respond.


Margery spoke of the importance of enabling the participation of children and vulnerable people in decisions affecting them. She asked those gathered to think of ways in which the voice of children and young people are heard in the formulation of policies, procedures and other aspects of ministry.


The forum ended with a panel discussion ‘Developing structures for governance of incorporated ministries that affirms and encourages lay leadership’. Members of the panel were Lucy Molony (Mercy Education), Stephen Cornelissen (Mercy Health) and David Penny (Executive Leader, Professional Services).


Lucy said a question we could ask is what attracts a person to the ministry in the first place?


“Hopefully a passion for the mission, born of an experience of the ministry at some stage.


“Those of us who are in Mercy ministries need to be mindful in our relationships that  we do build the reputation of  mercy within the Church and society generally,” said Lucy.


Stephen Cornelissen said in health care people can do the work that they do anywhere at any time using the same skills set.


“Yet the reason we do our work and the why factor are different and when they come they need to feel that tangibly,” said Stephen.


David Penny reflected on the characteristics of a lay leader today.


“A lay leader needs to be a very influential type of a person and a person who can change the way they want to influence in the church or organisation.


“You need a willingness to lead from the second chair…you aren’t going to be the leader, but its perfectly okay for others to be in leadership positions,” said David.


All agreed that the development of a coordinated approach to fostering of talent and appointment of Directors would be a valuable initiative to maintain sound future governance of the Institute’s incorporated ministries into the future.



To watch a video of highlights from the two-day forum, click on the play arrow below:


To watch a video of highlights from the Opening Ritual please click on the play arrow below:


To view a series of short reflections on the 2017 Institute Chapter Statement click on the play arrow below.