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New style of pastoral leadership introduced for the Central West

In solidum: Carmelite of Mary Immaculate Father Shaiju Lookose with Fr Alex Varghese, Bishop Michael McCarthy, Fr Jomon Poothara and Heralds of Good News Father Raj Kodavatikanti.

A NEW model of pastoral leadership is being trialled in the central west of Rockhampton 

diocese to combat the challenges posed to 

sacramental ministry because of the vast 

distances between the remote parish communities.

Rockhampton Bishop Michael McCarthy appointed Carmelite of Mary Immaculate Father Shaiju Lookose and Heralds of Good News Father Raj Kodavatikanti as priests “in solidum” to the seven parishes and communities that make up the central west.

Fr Kodavatikanti was appointed the moderator, who directs the joint action of the priests and was answerable to the bishop.

Bishop McCarthy said in solidum meant the priests worked “together pastorally and sacramentally for the good of all parishioners of all the parishes and communities of the central west”.

The central west includes Longreach, Morella, Stonehenge, Bedourie, Isisford, Jundah, Barcaldine, Blackall, Tambo, Aramac, Muttaburra, Alpha and Jericho. 

Bishop McCarthy said Frs Lookose and Kodavatikanti would provide sacramental care to half the geographic area of the diocese, about 200,000 square kilometres.

He said he was grateful to the diocese’s senior priests who provided ministry to the communities of Longreach and Barcaldine on rotation for the past year.

“During 2019, I was delighted by the formation of the Central West Regional Pastoral Council under the chairing of Andrew Wachtel and the recent appointment of Loretta McKeering as the pastoral co-ordinator,” he said.

Bishop McCarthy likened the appointment of the priests in solidum as yet another innovation to the region in providing sacramental ministry like the introduction of a light aircraft to cover the vast distances.

He said the two priests would stay in Longreach mid-week and travel to the communities of the central west on Friday for weekend Masses and baptisms.

It was hoped that when the communities received their priest, meals and housekeeping would be assisted at each of the presbyteries throughout the central west.

“Some of you will be saying, ‘we have lost our priest’… yet, the two priests are appointed to all of the seven parishes and will work across the whole area in a co-ordinated effort,” Bishop McCarthy said.

“I ask you to support our priests in their ministry and not place unfair expectations upon them as they will work closely with the regional pastoral council in discerning the pastoral needs of the whole area.”

He said the new model was the result of “extensive consultation” with senior priests, religious and laity over the past year.

Explaining the canon law of in solidum, Fr Andrew Hogan said under normal circumstances a parish had a pastor who had all the rights and duties to care for his people.

But this was not always possible.

“When the normal arrangements are not possible, the Church provides, albeit it extraordinary and temporary, other possibilities to ensure the proper pastoral care of the People of God,” Fr Hogan said.

“One avenue available to the bishop is to group multiple parishes and entrust them jointly to a group of priests – in solidum.”

Essentially, the priests who are in solidum jointly have the rights and duties necessary to care for the people in all the parishes. 

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