Appendix C – Guidelines For A Single Parish/Congregation Discernment/Support Group

C1 Each Candidate will have a group of people in their Parish/Congregation, who will be part of the discernment/support process for the Candidate.

C2 The discernment portion of their responsibilities will be:

C2.1 To learn about priestly ministry and the symbolic and functional roles of a priest, we expect that the group will meet regularly with their Candidate to engage in discussion, the reading of priestly education materials, and learning about the gifts and skills of the Candidate. The Commission will provide relevant reading material and other resources if required.

A member of the Commission will meet with the discernment/support group, if requested, to help them clarify their standards for working together, to provide guidelines, information, and resources about the priesthood.

C2.2 To participate in the education of the Parish/Congregation regarding the symbolic and functional roles of a priest. We expect that the group will write articles for the parish newsletter, or pew leaflets, about the role and function of a priest, and with the Incumbent’s assent arrange or a series of sermons to be preached on the subject. We also expect the group to be prepared to do an educational component about the priesthood at the next congregational meeting.

C2.3 To use objective criteria and critical skills in addressing the serious questions before the Parish/Congregation and the Candidate. It is necessary for the Group to explore and discern and to share that discernment, prayerfully with courage and insight, to both the applicant and the Parish/Congregation. The Group must be able and willing to offer feedback, and raise insightful questions. The Group must also be willing and able to provide a safe, confidential place for each Candidate to share feelings, experiences and review learning.

C2.4 To be a perceptive advocate for the Candidate. If you see your Candidate struggling, it is important to engage the issues, not avoid them. If you see attitudes and behaviours in your Candidate that worry you, you must bring them to the attention of the Candidate and, if you are seriously concerned, to the Incumbent and the Commission. The Commission, in consultation with the Bishop, will be responsible for any decision made regarding a candidate in this situation. Please note, this group — even though it is an advocate for the Candidate — is not a lobby group with the Bishop or the Commission on behalf of their candidate.

C2.5 To participate in the Parish/Congregational training event, which will be led by a member of the Commission.

C2.6 To begin to help the candidate discern and clarify her/his call to the priesthood, we expect the group to do study session(s) with the book Listening Hearts. (See Appendix D). This may be done as part of the regular meetings of the group with the Candidate. The sessions need to include an exploration, and examination of the Candidate’s sense of call by God to ordained ministry. The group should also meet at times, without the Candidate to formulate questions and discuss issues.

C2.7 To aid both the Parish/Congregation and the Candidate in discerning and clarifying their personal ministry, we suggest that the Parish engage in an identification project of ministries in their parish and communities, in order to help identify how an LTP may minister in the trained areas.

C2.8 To understand the financial commitment to the programme, that is required of both the Parish/Congregation and the Candidate.

C2.9 To keep the Parish/Congregation informed about the process and the decisions made in the Parish/Congregation and in the Diocese regarding the Candidate. This is to be done in cooperation with the Incumbent, who will have the final say in how this process ought to be done.

C2.10 To make a recommendation — in conjunction with the Incumbent — regarding the Candidate, to the Commission. The Parish/Congregational report needs to be sent to the Commission no sooner than six months after the Parish/Congregational training event, led by a member of the Commission, has been completed. The Parish report, along with a report from the Commission, will be sent to the Bishop.

C2.11 It may be necessary to offer a negative recommendation about the Candidate. In that case the group must elaborate its concerns, come to a mutually acceptable conclusion, and share this with the Incumbent. It will be the responsibility of the Incumbent to convey the decision of the group to the Commission and to the Bishop. The Commission, in consultation with the Bishop, will speak with the Candidate, to offer support, recommend appropriate pastoral care and offer suggestions for redirection.

C2.12 To assist the Church Committee in the writing of a covenant which will govern the work of the Ordinand in the Parish/Congregation. The Covenant will then be sent to the Bishop, for his/her consideration.

C3 The support portion of the Group’s responsibilities will be:

C3.1 To meet regularly with the Candidate to engage in discussion regarding issues of personal support, and to provide moral, spiritual and emotional guidance and support to the Candidate, during his/her candidacy and after ordination. The members of this group must have the skills and gifts necessary to provide a safe confidential place for each applicant to share feelings, experiences and review learning.

C3.2 If you see your Candidate struggling, it is important to engage the issues, not avoid them. If you see attitudes and behaviours in your Candidate that worry you, you must bring them to the attention of the Candidate and, if you are seriously concerned, to the Incumbent and the Commission.

C3.3 This group may need to exist for a period of years and therefore membership may change. The Group and the Incumbent, in consultation should devise a way to release and celebrate the work of retiring members and a way to appoint new members. This committee should continue to meet with the priest and offer support for a minimum of one year following ordination.

C3.4 There are a number of important milestones in the process toward ordination and following ordination. There will be therefore moments of anxiety, celebration, and there may be disappointments. These are the times when the discernment/support group will need to be most present to the candidate.

C4 Members of the Discernment/Support group will be:

  • A serving warden is preferable. However, said warden may stay with the group when his/her term of office ends.
  • Two people appointed by the Incumbent
  • Two people chosen by the Candidate, one of who need not necessarily be a member of the Parish, who shall reside within the boundaries of the Diocese of Kootenay.
  • One member of the group who brings experience and insight from outside the Parish but from within the Diocese.
  • The incumbent may be invited to attend the meetings for a specific purpose
  • C5 Expectations of a Discernment/Support group
  • maintain absolute confidentiality
  • meet regularly
  • become knowledgeable about the priesthood
  • become knowledgeable about the Locally Trained Priesthood programme in the Diocese of Kootenay
  • maintain a liaison with the Parish council
  • undertake to teach the Parish about the priesthood
  • understand the financial commitment to the programme that is required of both the Parish and the candidate.
  • provide emotional support and guidance to the Candidate
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