New Pastoral Supervision Program designed to help acknowledge and build on what is working

21 Dec 2021

By Jamie O'Brien

By Jamie O’Brien & Eric Martin

Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB and Centrecare Inc Director Tony Pietropiccolo sign the formal agreement. Access Wellbeing Services, a service of the catholic organisation Centrecare Inc., will provide the Clergy Professional Pastoral Supervision Program for the Archdiocese using their in-house supervision team. Photo: Max Hoh.

Pastoral support for parish priests is now available through the Archdiocese of Perth, with the launch of the new Clergy Professional Pastoral Supervision program on Tuesday 26 October.

An essential ingredient in maintaining wellbeing, the new program ensures that the clergy have access to support and strategies to effectively mitigate the many stresses of being spiritually responsible for their local Catholic community.

“At the heart of our ministry as deacons, priests and bishops is our commitment to be servants to our brothers and sisters in the faith, and in an increasingly complex world it is not always easy to live this vocation fully,” Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB said at the launch at the Doubletree Hilton on the Waterfront Hotel.

“Pastoral supervision is designed to help us acknowledge and build on what is working and assist us to make changes where necessary and this has certainly been my own experience over the last few years.”

Although the new program is a direct response to recommendations made by the Royal Commission (Recommendations 16.20 & 16.45*), it also extends a valuable service to the clergy: supervision is common practice for professionals who are entrusted with the physical, mental and emotional care of people, especially for the vulnerable.

“Our wider community expects us, rightly, to respond as fully as possible to the recommendations of the Royal Commission, and even more importantly, the Lord, through his Church, calls us to do whatever we can to make our pastoral ministry as effective as possible: Clergy Pastoral Supervision is one element in a suite of offerings which can help us do just that,” Archbishop Costelloe explained.

“This has long been a practice in many sectors of our society and is seen as critical to maintaining the integrity of professional practice and ensuring the wellbeing of those assisting others in difficult and complex life situations.”

Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB, fourth from left, with staff from Centrecare Inc and the Archdiocese at the launch of the new Pastoral Supervision Program. Photo: Max Hoh.

Research shows that providing pastoral care, whether to an individual or a community, can be a demanding and complex responsibility which may have both personal and professional impacts.

It can also be an isolating and lonely experience, especially when working alone or in challenging settings.

Conversely, even when the individual’s work in ministry or service is thriving, supervision plays an important part in maintaining standards and in providing the opportunity for reflection and further growth, focusing on support, education and healthy personal and pastoral practice.

The desired outcome of professional supervision is a continuing enhancement of ministry.

“I have come to know first-hand the importance of supervision in my own life and the value of the support it provides me in my role as the Archbishop. There are always challenges to meet and being able to access an independent skilled supervision specialist who can provide me with perspective and insight, and who sometimes challenges me, has helped me immensely,” Archbishop Costelloe said.

“I ask you to humbly join me in embracing pastoral supervision with enthusiasm and trust.”

All clergy in the Archdiocese of Perth – those who are active in parish ministry, other specialist ministries or chaplaincies, and all seminarians – will be required to attend a minimum of six pastoral supervision sessions each year.

Access Wellbeing Services, a service of the catholic organisation Centrecare Inc., will provide the Clergy Professional Pastoral Supervision Program for the Archdiocese using their in-house supervision team.

The program will be provided from several locations across Perth and utilise the digital communications technology so familiar from COVID-19 lockdowns to enable participation by clergy based in remote locations.

All of Access Wellbeing’s supervisors have tertiary qualifications in either Social Work, Counselling, or Psychology and hold professional affiliations with relevant professional bodies.

The team possess extensive skills, knowledge and experience in the delivery of Professional Supervision using a balance of the three main functions of supervision: Professional Learning, Support and Accountability.

“This is something new for most of us and in some ways may be a little daunting (the unknown often is),” Archbishop Costelloe said.

“However, I am convinced, largely because of my own experience, that this can only add to our effectiveness as ministers of the gospel, signs and bearers of God’s love for his people, and for this reason I am full of hope as I formally launch this new initiative today.”