Despite not having a bishop and facing financial challenges, Palmerston North diocese is looking at the coming year with a positive vision.
“I think we’re in really good stead and in a really good position as a diocese heading into 2021,” newly appointed general manager Liam Greer said.
Mr Greer had been giving a presentation to parishioners called Update 2020, reporting to them on where the diocese is standing at the moment, the services it offers to the parishes and the pastoral mission the Church in Palmerston North is embarking on.
Members of the diocesan staff accompanied Mr Greer in presenting at St Mary’s, Whanganui; Immaculate Conception, Stratford; Palmerston North Diocesan Centre; and St Mary’s, Taradale.
“One of the best questions that was asked of us in Stratford was: ‘You got all the financial issues, compliance issues, aging buildings that are seismically compromised, what is the biggest priority?’ And the answer to that is our mission,” he said.
“It’s not the bricks and mortar. It’s not the money. The priority is the mission, because without the mission, the rest of it is irrelevant,” he said.
He said the diocese’s finances took a hit from the pandemic as Mass giving dipped during the lockdown and the equities and properties market took a tumble. He said Palmerston North’s situation is not unlike that of other dioceses.
“It looks like the equities and properties markets have bounced back and it’s looking as good as it was pre-Covid but we are looking at avenues where we can increase our passive income through developing land that the Church already owns to create some long-term passive income,” he said.
Mr Greer said no consideration has been entered into around the potential to restructure parishes. This would done with full transparency with stakeholders and would likely come about in the coming years as the need to address issues with various buildings came to the forefront.
Pastoral coordinator Isabella McCafferty also gave parishioners an update on their journey as a Church.
“Isabella did this fantastic presentation around road map for transformation. That was a presentation around where we think the Church is, not only our diocese but nationally and internationally, what is the point of our being here, who are we and what is the point of our mission,” he said.
Mr Greer said they are not looking to “maintain” the Church but to grow and to spread the mission.
“We’re essentially there to achieve the pastoral priorities as determined by the bishop. So, we’ve got a mission and we’re there to spread the mission, to have Catholic character in schools, to ensure our churches are looked after, our youth ministry is vibrant and is growing,” he said, adding, “we all manage that through prudent administration of affairs, assets and finances of the Church.”
Mr Greer, who had been in his post barely half the year, counted himself lucky in having “a really professional, functional team” backed up with significant support from Cardinal John Dew, Msgr Brian Walsh and the other dioceses.
He expressed appreciation to the other New Zealand bishops for holding the NZ Catholic Bishops Conference in Palmerston North on the last week of October.
“That was a show of solidarity with our bishops and recognition that we might not have a bishop but the Catholic Church is there supporting us,” he said.