By Kiply Lukan Yaworski
[Saskatoon] – Addressing the issue of protecting minors and vulnerable persons in Catholic parishes was a large part of an annual Administration Day in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon Sept. 12, 2018 as pastors, parish and ministry staff and parish leaders from across the diocese gathered with Bishop Mark Hagemoen to launch a new ministry year.
The annual Administration Day also included a number of presentations on Human Resources policy, ministries and programs in the diocese, as well as the launch of the Bishop’s Annual Appeal.
Covenant of Care policies established in the diocese for the protection of children, youth and vulnerable adults were addressed by Bishop Mark Hagemoen.
The Covenant of Care is one of a number of diocesan policies under review since the bishop arrived in the diocese. A renewed and expanded advisory group started this review early in 2018, he reported.
“Obviously, the present situation – the news (about sexual abuse by clergy) that has come from the Grand Jury in Pennsylvania and other revelations – makes this issue all the more important – but I wanted to let you know that we had been working on this already,” Hagemoen told the diocesan gathering.
After related discussions by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) at their national plenary gathering Sept. 24-28, the diocese’s own updated policy will be finalized and promulgated, Hagemoen reported.
The existing Covenant of Care in the diocese of Saska-toon has three components:
- a general policy and protocol on keeping church environments safe and respectful, especially for children, youth and vulnerable adults;
- a Code of Conduct that outlines basic directives for clergy and lay employees;
- a protocol for dealing with allegations of abuse or misconduct.
Rather than forming one document as they do now, these three elements will be presented separately in the revised policy, said the bishop.
During Administration Day, the bishop circulated the updated Code of Conduct form, reviewing it with those present and asking them to immediately renew their commitment to the directives by signing it before leaving that day. “It is very important to continue to administer the protocol and to update certain features,” he said.
Reflecting on recent reports of sexual abuse within the Church and the profound harm inflicted on victims, the current Covenant of Care Director, Blake Sittler, also highlighted the need for vigilance — particularly the need to keep police record checks up to date for all those providing ministry, including staff or volunteers dealing with children, youth or vulnerable adults.
“It is precisely at this time in history where we need to redouble our efforts to say that this needs to be part of who we are as Church – we need to create a safe place,” Sittler said. “In the church, in the diocese, no matter what your job description is, every single one of us is responsible for this.”
The bishop encouraged clergy and all those in ministry to persevere in the face of the horrific reports of abuse and the failures of church leaders.
“We are called to be ministers of Christ, ministers to the people of God and His Church, and all of this calls us all the more urgently to a way of holiness,” said Hagemoen, repeating an emphasis on accountability from his Sept. 7, 2018 letterto the faithful about the revelations of sexual abuse in the Church.
“Maybe a better phrase would be ‘a call to Koinonia’, that is, a call to Christian community led by the Holy Spirit,” he said. “I would love to explore that in practical ways as I continue to journey together with you as your bishop… the Holy Spirit is currently with us, active and alive and doing what the Holy Spirit does.”
The bishop added: “This certainly relates to the call to be communities that are safe, respectful and healthy.”
Other highlights of Administration Day:
During the diocesan gathering the bishop described some of the tasks that have been undertaken since his installation Nov. 23, 2017. This has included renewing the four main consultative bodies that exist in every diocese:
- the College of Consultors, consisting of between six and 12 priests, who are mandated to serve for a term of five years;
- the Council of Priests, or Presbyteral Council, a much wider body of priests from across the diocese;
- the Diocesan Finance Council, also canonically mandated, with each member serving for five years; and
- the Diocesan Pastoral Council, which includes clergy representatives, those in consecrated life, and laity.
The bishop expressed appreciation for those who have already agreed to serve on these important diocesan councils.
“People have responded very generously in the diocese to serve on these bodies,” he said. When the Diocesan Pastoral Council moves forward, a key task for the new body will be “to help me as a bishop come up with a ministry visioning plan for the next three years,” he added.
The New Evangelization was cited as a particular priority at the time of his appointment as bishop of Saskatoon.
“Those convictions need to be very much informed by becoming familiar with the diocese – I have only been here a year. I have been to almost every parish, but that doesn’t mean I know a parish. The New Evangelization will be informed by having the right bodies in place to help me. I am looking forward to that. I really am.”
The bishop compared the work of the Diocesan Pastoral Council with the kind of visioning called for by Parish Pastoral Councils, who determine priorities and directions for the parish for which the Parish Finance Committee then finds resources.
Hagemoen described how a parish’s pastoral vision includes children’s faith formation, youth and young adult ministry, adult faith formation, and ministry with seniors. “The focus of the ministry life of our parish – or of our diocese – is the People of God,” he summarized. “And the source and summit of that is the celebration of the Eucharist, which is both a gathering and a sending into the life, mission and ministry of Jesus Christ.”
Other undertakings by Bishop Hagemoen during his first year shepherding the diocese of Saskatoon have included: reviewing and updating the statutes for Parish Pastoral Councils and Parish Finance Committees; an updated Personnel Policy (presented at Administration Day by Human Resources Manager Patrick Clarke); a revised Salary Grid; a continuing reflection on initiatives in the diocese regarding the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action; a review of the mandate and goals of the Diocesan Council for Truth and Reconciliation (DCTR); and the establishment of a new Reverence for Life committee.
Further discernment on implementing a permanent diaconate formation program in the diocese has also been undertaken, with plans underway for the first cohort of candidates.
This year also included many meetings, visits and celebrations around the diocese for Bishop Hagemoen in 2018, including Confirmation and First Eucharist celebrations in 40 communities, involving 50 parishes.
“There is very good work and stewardship that is going on in our parish communities, urban and rural,” Hagemoen told those gathered for Administration Day. “I am really impressed by the rural communities… the stewardship and the ministry in many of our rural parishes is great to see and I look forward to building on it.”
Administration Day also serves as the launch of the Bishop’s Annual Appeal, which raises financial resources for a range of pastoral ministry and outreach in the diocese of Saskatoon and the wider community.