Hexham and Newcastle Diocese


Vision of Leadership

Fr Chris Jackson writes about a diocesan meeting of Diocesan Directors and other attendees which took place on March 19th:

"Who will lead our Diocese in 2016?

"This is not a question about our next bishop. It’s not a question about how many priests and deacons we will have in three years’ time. It is a question about how to empower lay people for leadership. It is a question that a group of clergy and lay people met to discuss at the Diocesan offices on March 19. (A good day : St Joseph’s Solemnity, and the start of Pope Francis’ ministry.)

... the group’s vision of leadership was that it should be centred on Christ and rooted in conversion to him. It should be a partnership of adults who will share talents and resources

"Who was there? Our facilitator, Paul Cummings of The OD People , Bishop Seamus and other Directors of the Diocese. Fathers Adrian Dixon, Sean Hall, Michael McCoy, Deacon Tom Rooke. Sister Michael, Julia Firbank (Chair of the Council of Laity),Kathryn Turner (Head of the Department of Spirituality), Kathleen Smith (Chief Operating Officer) , Paula Henley (Bishop’s PA)

"After some time spent working together the group’s vision of leadership was that it should be centred on Christ and rooted in conversion to him. It should be a partnership of adults who will share talents and resources.

"We then asked ‘What is good about our present situation?’ Well, there are good examples of lay leadership to build on: Lay-led Eucharistic services, for example, are a feature of parish life; we have lay Directors without whom the Board could not function well; the Bishop gives clear, consistent messages about the need for lay people to share in leadership, and there are parishes where this happens.

We must start with the clergy and let them know about this vision for leadership: a partnership centred on Christ; a partnership in which talents and resources are shared.

"The next question: ‘What is less good?’ People felt that lay ministry is often seen as ‘helping Father’ and Father is often reluctant to let go. This means that people are uncertain about what they can and cannot do. There is also a feeling that the priests, and many of the people, are weary and overwhelmed; not surprising when you look at the age profile of our priests and the older parishioners who make up most of the workforce in our parishes.

"So there is a gap between the group’s vision and the situation as it is. We talked for a long time about how to move forward and came up with the following priorities:

"We must start with the clergy and let them know about this vision for leadership: a partnership centred on Christ; a partnership in which talents and resources are shared. There are formation programmes for lay people and clergy which can be adapted to the teaching of Vatican II.

"On vital step in this process is a meeting for clergy on 26th September this year. We need to begin with our deanery conferences and find out from them what needs to be addressed at this meeting. The questions they are being asked to consider now are simple: in your ministry what energises you? What de-energises you? What strategies do you have?

"Meanwhile Bishop Seamus, together Maureen Bates (Diocesan Director), Kathryn turner, Fr Adrian Dixon and Fr Sean Hall will consider how to move forward. How can we develop our vision for leadership in the light of Vatican II and the needs of the diocese? How will we, clergy and lay people, share our gifts and talents? What will be our strategy for putting this vision into effect and communicating it to our parishes? This will be our first priority as a diocese and other initiatives will be on hold. So watch this space!"