The April 2010 issue of Intercom is now available. Read a feature article on the role and experience of a pastoral area worker in Kerry Diocese. Subscription details below.

April 2010 Issue

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Sowing the seeds of Faith

Helena Connolly explains the role of a pastoral area worker in the Diocese of Kerry

Being the first Pastoral Area Worker employed in the Diocese of Kerry, it can often be difficult to describe to people what exactly my job entails. It is often greeted with a ….. I thought priests did that job or, … did you get into that? More often than not however, I have found that parishioners are genuinely enthusiastic about a young lay person taking on such a role in the Church and are interested and open about the work that I do. My pastoral area includes five parishes – Killarney, Kilcummin, Firies, Fossa and Glenflesk. Prior to being appointed to the post in late 2009, I was a member of the Diocesan Pastoral Renewal Team – a role that involved planning and overseeing various initiatives throughout the diocese and being a resource and support for parish renewal. My new role is much more hands on, working at the coalface of parish life. I get an enormous sense of fulfilment being involved in the faith development and building up of the faith community, knowing that my work contributes to the vitality and future stability of the parish.

I was fortunate to spend five years working as a music teacher and school chaplain in a large secondary school just outside Edinburgh; however nothing is quite like working in a parish! I grew up in Lisnaskea, Co Fermanagh in the parish of Aghalurgher there is no doubt that my involvement in my parish community cemented my love for parish work. As Ive come to learn, our beginnings very often shape our ends. As a teenager I was given opportunities in various ministries; I was a member of the choir, I was a reader and I was part of the Faith and Light group. I always felt fully connected and an important part of the parish faith community. When I moved away from Lisnaskea at 18 to study, I missed that sense of belonging – on the other hand, it enabled me to grow more strongly in faith and to work in other parish settings. I love that parishes are places where people are enabled to use their gifts, and by doing so they are brought closer to God and become more connected within the community. It certainly had a huge impact on me as a young teenager.

I am delighted that my role enables me to develop one of my main passions; music ministry. I am director of music in St Marys Cathedral Killarney and I encourage and support those working in music ministry in the churches within the pastoral area. I direct Killarney cathedral choir which involves a weekly rehearsal and singing at one Sunday liturgy per week. The choir also make themselves available for funerals. I co-ordinate the Cantors who lead the singing at one of the Sunday liturgies, I work with the youth choir and I am in the process of setting up a childrens choir. My work also involves supporting home, school, parish links and facilitating sacramental preparation programmes and information evenings for parents. With Confirmations and First Holy Communions just around the corner, this is a busy time of the year. As part of this sacramental preparation, I organise day retreats for Confirmation pupils come spring and co-ordinate the Do This in Memory programme in the various churches within the pastoral area.

My work is varied as I can plan and organise programmes and events as the needs arise. Most recently I have facilitated evenings of prayer and reflection for Ministers of the Word, Ministers of the Eucharist and Altar Servers and have co-ordinated faith development initiatives, especially among young adults. I am currently developing programmes and resources that enable people to explore their faith, all the time working collaboratively with the priests and parish teams already in existence … no two days are ever the same!

I have often heard pastoral work compared to that of a gardener identifying the suitable soil, planting the seeds and providing support for the growing plants. However, it is the seeds themselves that must grow and produce fruit. Often I am a facilitator, helping people live out to the full the gifts they received at baptism and confirmation. I would like to think that I am a sign of hope, enabling people to explore and experience a rich fullness of life that comes from living a Catholic faith. My role embodies a vision, encouraging people to build and sustain a vibrant faith community into the future. So much of pastoral work is dependent, however, on relationship. It is important that I am a means of support, guidance and care to those in the pastoral area.

Faithful Catholics may look at the future and feel overwhelmed at the problems the Church faces. In the Diocese of Kerry, our parish pastoral councils, twelve area pastoral councils and diocesan pastoral council are places of discernment, energy and hope for the future mission as Church. I am sensing that this change, life and growth are signs of the Spirit! This sense of lay ministry continues to be a critical dynamic for lay involvement in parish life. I feel pastoral work is both rich and life giving, it is varied and challenging and it always brings its own rewards. In my role as pastoral area worker I serve as an example to other young people, so that they see the Church as source of hope that draws them closer to God.


Intercom is a pastoral and liturgical resource magazine published by Veritas, an agency of the Irish Catholic Bishops Commission on Communications.

There are ten issues per year, including double issues for July-August and December-January.

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