Auckland diocese’s Religious Education Team recently launched Mentoring for Mission, a two-day workshop aimed at providing parishioners with skills and confidence to “walk alongside fellow pilgrims in their mission” as baptised Catholics. RE team leader Sr Sian Owen, RSJ, said the initiative was about how parishioners can help others to grow in their mission by accompanying them, rather than telling them what to do.

“As parish life changes, what we’re finding more and more is that there are a few really keen people who want to encourage other people to be in ministry with them or mission with them but don’t know how to do that without becoming the teacher or making big demands,” she said.

Sr Sian said every baptised person has a mission of some kind, whether it be parenting, working with young people, or helping others in their faith journey.

“Mentoring for Mission is really about walking alongside people so they can be the best they are able to be,” she said.

Sr Sian and parish advisor Delia Ruane conceptualised the workshop based on Sr Sian’s experience in faith  development and faith programmes and Mrs Ruane’s experience in Seasons for Growth, a grief and loss education programme.

Mrs Ruane said training people to become companions was adapted from the “seasons” programme.

“A lot of the sessions on Mentoring for Mission were based on tried and true formulas. We just adapted it to suit the group we had,” she said.

The first two-day workshop was held on July 20-21 at the Pompallier Centre in Ponsonby. It was fully subscribed. The next workshop slated for later in the year already has a waiting list.

“We looked at things like what is a mentor, what are the ethics that go along with being a mentor, looked at, albeit briefly, faith development and how people at different stages of their life may look at faith differently,” Mrs Ruane said.

Sr Sian explained to the participants that they can be with people in the Church who have a strong faith, but not at the same expression or depth of faith that they [participants] have.

The workshop also touched on multi-cultural expressions of faith.

“What is normative as a faith expression here may not be there. And that does not mean either is right or wrong. It just means there has to be a dialogue that we’re meant to be having,” Sr Sian said.

Mrs Ruane did a session on compassionate listening based on the work of St Benedict of Nursia.

“True listening, like St Benedict says, is listening with the ears of the heart. So, the heart is central to everything. Walking with fellow pilgrims on mission That’s what we should be listening with because we miss out on so many things when we don’t listen properly,” she said.

But they clarified the limitations of mentoring.

“A mentor is not someone who comes and tries to solve all the problems. That’s not their job. Their job is to support the person and to walk alongside them,” explained Mrs Ruane.

Sr Sian said the task of the participants of the workshop now is to identify the people in their parishes who need to be “walked alongside with”.

“That was part of the conversations they had towards the end. Now we have a bit more confidence, how do we go about using the skills we are developing to bring about the mission,” she said.

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