When it is not possible to appoint a full-time parish priest or a parish administrator due to a shortage of priests, there is another way for a diocesan bishop provide for the pastoral care of a parish community: pastoral associates.

This new position will ensure the care of and flourishing of Vermont parishes into the future.

“In order to sustain Christian life and to continue the evangelizing mission of the community, the diocesan bishop may entrust a share in the pastoral care of a parish to a deacon, to a consecrated religious or layperson or even to a group of persons” such as a religious institute or association,” explained Deacon Phil Lawson, executive director of evangelization, catechesis, divine worship, marriage and family and respect life for the Diocese of Burlington.

To train candidates to be pastoral associates, the Diocese is instituting a Pastoral Associate for Parish Life Training Program. Applications for the one-year formation program will be accepted in the spring, and the program will begin in August for the academic year 2021-2022

It is designed to equip individuals with knowledge and skills to serve their parishes. This service will take the form of parish administration, pastoral care, pastoral counseling, finances, sacramental preparation, liturgical planning and assistance, human resources and faith formation.

The sessions will be facilitated by Deacon Lawson, Deacon Chris Keough, various diocesan leaders and individuals with experience serving in this role.

In addition to in-person formation in Vermont, students will complete a course from the Pontifical College Josephinum entitled “Best Practices in Parish Administration.”

The Diocese will cover the majority of the cost of this program. Each participant will be asked to contribute $250 in tuition.

“We know that we have a real priest shortage at this time. This has necessitated the researching of additional means of caring for our parishes, while freeing up our priests to spend more of their time on that which they alone can do, in the areas of sacramental ministry and spiritual care,” Deacon Lawson said. “However, this should not be seen as simply trying to plug a hole, but an opportunity to build vibrant parishes and move our parishes from mere maintenance to mission; drawing more workers into the vineyard who are inspired and equipped to joyfully share the Gospel.”

To be eligible for the program, a candidate must be a Catholic in good standing. The normal prerequisite for submitting an application is successful completion of the Diocesan Lay Formation Program or similar previous formation. In addition, three letters of recommendation, including one from the applicant’s current pastor, are required.

For more information, email Deacon Lawson at plawson@vermontcatholic.org.

Christ Our Hope Campaign Update

A portion of the funds raised through the Christ Our Hope: Building a Vibrant Church campaign supports these types of ministries through the faith formation fund established in the Vermont Catholic Community Foundation.

This will ensure stable income for vital faith formation ministries, especially in times of crisis. To learn more about the campaign or make a gift online visit: christourhopevt.org. 16% raised as of Oct. 20: $1,569,715 Goal: $10,000,000.

—Originally published in the Oct. 31-Nov. 6, 2020, issue of The Inland See.