The role of the lay faithful in the Church is an important one. Empowerment and direction has been given to them by the Second Vatican Council documents and the more recent publication Christifideles Laici “On the Vocation and the Mission of the Lay Faithful in the Church and the World” by Pope John Paul II.
The Parish Pastoral Care Program provides an opportunity for the lay faithful to combine their energies with the Parish Priest in building parish community and provide a Care Program to fellow parishioners and others in the community. In this way, they put into action the command to love one another and also are seen by the world at large as a loving supporting body of Christ.
Not everyone has the time available in these times of change and social pressure to be a Pastoral Care Coordinator. That is why a team of Coordinators is recommended for each parish, rather than have the whole task fall to one or two people.
A team provides flexibility for the program and the freedom for the individual Coordinator to go about their normal life without experiencing a feeling of having to sit by the phone in case someone rings for help.
The Coordinator’s role is to take calls for assistance, discern what action to take, (sometimes by visiting the person asking for help) organise a volunteer to do the task and to assess whether any further help should be offered.
Each parish has its own personality and way of operating. However, the Coordinator must be careful to open the way and to provide opportunities for volunteers to be involved in charitable works. They must also be mindful that the Archbishop requires an account of the activities of each parish’s pastoral ministry. The Parish Pastoral Care Program contributes to this report and should never be seen as the domain of the individual or of a “select” group. Sharing the good works of the service will help develop a sense of community and growth in the parish and avoid elitism which is a destructive element.
Coordinators also have the support of the Catholic Outreach Director. This support is particularly useful when dealing with a difficult situation which may arise in the normal course of their duties, or when a Coordinator wishes to talk through some matters concerning their work.
It is recommended that Coordinators also research local agencies, (eg Shire, Health, Cultural and their own parish services) and develop a Community Resource referral list.