Just over three months ago I was appointed Pastoral Administrator of Christ the King, Milton Keynes, and St Bede’s, Newport Pagnell. As this is a new role I was not quite sure what it would entail, but I have come to love this challenging work.
The people have welcomed me with open arms, even if at the beginning they found it hard not to have a resident priest. Many of them now tell me they will help in whatever way they can to make this new model of parish work and this really gives me joy and hope, as I am hoping to facilitate a parish where everyone is involved and puts their gifts and talents at the service of the community. (I would be very interested to hear from anyone doing a similar job – please contact me by leaving a comment below.)
So what do I do?
I welcome the parishioners into church and greet them as they leave. I am slowly getting to build up relationships; they are getting to know me, trust me and share their journey with me. By listening to them, to their hopes, dreams, worries and difficulties, I hope I might be able to support them and show them that I care. I always speak to the congregation on a Sunday at the end of Mass. I talk about important events coming up in the parish and encourage them to take part.
I visit and give Communion to the sick and the elderly in hospital, in their homes and in care homes.
I am involved in the sacramental programmes for both parishes. We have started a new Journey in Faith group; we are experimenting with a new baptismal preparation programme. I have introduced a new confirmation programme and I support and encourage the First Holy Communion programme.
I like to get involved in anything that is going on in the parishes, be it the Christmas bazaar or the parish quiz evening.
I have started a parish council and finance committee in both parishes. I am hopeful that they will become strong groups that generate new life and participation in both parishes.
I work closely with the two priests who say Mass every Sunday in the two parishes, and with the two fantastic deacons who give me unfailing help. I rely too on the friendship and support of Sr Eileen, who lives in community with me, and who helps in whatever way she can.
I also need time to prepare for these important meetings, and most importantly time to pray about and to reflect on this new mission and the best way forward.
Christ the King is an ecumenical church, so I am getting used to working with other denominations, especially the Baptists. Hopefully this Lent we will be able to have a joint reflection programme.
And of course – as every parish priest knows – there is all the administration to attend to and the unannounced events that happen every day: phone calls, callers at the door – matters that have to be attended to.
I find that this mission fits into what I am called to be as a Sister of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Our charism is to demonstrate to all, particularly the poor, the tenderness and merciful love of the Father revealed in Jesus. People want to be listened to, they want to know that someone cares, that they are loved, appreciated and valued. People are searching for a deep personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I hope in some small way I can help facilitate that.
Sr Yvonne Pilarski is pastoral administrator of two parishes in the diocese of Northamptonshire