Pastoral Associates Carve out Key Role

By Wermes, Joanmarie | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), May 14, 2000 | Go to article overview

Pastoral Associates Carve out Key Role


Wermes, Joanmarie, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


A day in the life of a pastoral associate can take many paths, some uphill, some down, some extremely crooked and rocky but most of the time very rewarding and enriching.

In the Chicago Catholic Archdiocese a pastoral associate is a man or woman who serves the parish as a professionally qualified minister sharing responsibility for the daily care of the faithful.

The pastoral associates of Cook and Lake counties met recently at St. Cecilia Church, Mount Prospect, for a day of renewal - one that allowed them to share stories, gather ideas, refresh themselves with prayer and lunch and listen to keynote speaker the Rev. John Cusick speak on the "Regeneration Of Parish Life."

A major thrust in Cusick's talk was what to do with and what is available for the young adults from 24 to 40 years old, according to Pastoral Associate Carol Holden of St. Alphonsus Liguori Parish in Prospect Heights.

Holden has served St. Alphonsus for nearly two years. On a daily basis in her parish, Holden says she finds "a strong sense of responsibility" to the people and strives "to be present" to them.

"I feel connected with the people," Holden said. "In simply asking 'how are you,' they open up themselves to share their lives, their joys and their stresses. These are graced moments because sometimes people don't need answers; they just need someone to talk with."

Holden agrees with other pastoral associates who realize no two days are alike in the life of a minister.

Sister Joanne Marie Schutz SSCM, who serves at St. Emily Parish in Mount Prospect, says she is "humbled at the honesty, sincerity and intimacy of conversations that are God moments for me. No day is totally the same."

Among the pastoral skills that pastoral associates must have are spiritual skills, community building skills and pastoral counseling skills. Pastoral associates share their own faith journeys while enabling others to do the same; they lead prayer; and they contribute to the spiritual growth of the people.

"One of the necessities and the consistent parts of each day is to pray that I will be attentive to the face of Jesus wherever he chooses to show himself throughout the day," Schutz said. "Some days I'm sitting with Jesus at the bedside of a member dealing with sickness, death or anxiety about tests. I see the face of Jesus in the sorrow of a family journeying through the immediate closure of life with a loved one. It is an intimate time as I pray with the sick and their family members.

"Some days I receive a call from a widow or widower who is experiencing the painful loss of a loved one. It allows me to hear the heart of Jesus in those who hurt on anniversaries, holidays. If I had to use one word to describe my life as an associate, it would be connection. Situations in my ministry remind me about being in the right place when I didn't know I was supposed to be there."

Schutz said the telephone often is the means to connect because ideas are generated, nourished or planted with a 10-minute return call.

For Marlene Sweeney of Hanover Park, a typical day in the life of a pastoral associate doesn't exist. Sweeney, who serves Our Lady of the Brook in Northbrook, says no two days are the same.

"Typical is a word that does not describe parish life," Sweeney said. "No two days are the same. …

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