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Queensland priest shares lay-centred parish strategy

A Queensland priest has told groups in the Victorian Diocese of Sandhurst that the starting point for parish planning should be the Eucharist and the giftedness of the local community, rather than infrastructure.

Fr John Dobson is parish priest of Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast. He has worked on a pastoral planning strategy that enabled him to develop and sustain 11 churches.

"These churches, with an active lay leadership, have their own pastoral infrastructure, with their own mission and outreach," he said.

Fr Dobson was invited to Victoria after people from the Bendigo-based Sandhurst diocese had witnessed the way the model worked when they were holidaying in Caloundra and returned home with the suggestion that Fr Dobson be invited to speak to groups in their diocese.

He said the significance and effectiveness of the strategy was that its starting point was the Eucharist and the local community, "and moves to energise local communities to become more responsible for them being Church".

"We are using a model that journeys from a temple model of Church to an upper room model of Church," Fr Dobson said.

"The starting point in this planning model does not begin with structure and organisation, but rather as Paul did at Corinth, builds the community on the giftedness of the people in the community.

"Paul could then tell the Corinthian people 'you are many parts that make up the one body that is Christ'."

Fr Dobson said the initiating point for action was the community instead of the priest. It was a model that maximises lay leadership and places the priesthood in much clearer focus, with the priest not having to concentrate on areas such as administration.

Fr Dobson was keynote speaker at a conference at Harrietville, with 60 people attending from around Sandhurst diocese. He spoke to a gathering of clergy of the diocese, as well as to three gatherings of lay people.

He also spoke with people involved in pastoral planning in Ballarat diocese and to Bishop Peter Connors of Ballarat.

Pictured: Fr John (left) is pictured here with Fr Des Welladsen (right), incoming Director of Clergy life and Ministry Team and Fr Dennis Crameri (centre), outgoing director, after the clergy conference.

Pastoral strategy attracts attention (Catholic Leader 4/7/04)

Fr John Dobson Speaks in the Diocese (Diocese of Sandhurst)

6 Jul 2004