Cathedral entrance hero

St George’s Cathedral

The Cathedral and
the Sending Parish

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Dr Bill Leadbetter, Scholar at St George’s Cathedral, Perth and, God willing, will be ordained deacon on 24 February

I began my journey into formation for ordination a little less than five years ago. That journey was prompted by a call that I felt was both irresistible and terrifying. My immediate response to it was to seek the advice and support of my own worshipping community, in this case, that of St George’s Cathedral. The Dean and Chapter formally supported my request to be considered for admission to the Formation Program, and so the Cathedral formally became my ‘sending parish’.

Every formation candidate needs to have a sending parish. This is not so much an administrative requirement as it is a pastoral one. The role of the sending parish or sending community is vital. It provides pastoral support, for example. Sometimes things do not go well in Formation. Everyone who has committed themselves to the process will encounter difficulties, failures, disappointments, even rejections, along the way. The loving support of the sending community can be really important in helping candidates in difficult times.

That support can be, and most often is, through prayer. There is a real security for a candidate in knowing that they are upheld in prayer, and that their needs and struggles are being put before God.

Formation candidates can experience a kind of ‘rootlessness’ because of the strong sense that our placement parishes or agencies are understood as temporary. As students, we are privileged visitors in our placements which leads to what a friend calls ‘in-between-ness’ or, more theologically, liminality. While this feeling of liminality is no bad thing in itself, the sending community provides a crucial anchor to counter it.
Whenever I have had a break, either between semesters or between academic years, I have simply come home to the Cathedral. It is my great blessing that I have always been able to do this. Return to my sending parish has enabled me to rest, recharge my batteries, and provided me with room to prepare for my next set of challenges.

For me, the Cathedral has been a model sending community. It has provided encouragement, prayer and respite. In this, the Cathedral stands as one of the many worshipping communities of the Church who have sent candidates into the Formation program. It is the task of all our parishes and communities to discern, encourage and support vocations. The call to ministry can come at any time or stage in life, and it can be best brought to fruition by the love and active support of a community of faith. This is an important and a selfless work, because the one sent is unlikely to return. Nevertheless, I pray that all of our parishes and agencies may be alert to the possibilities for ministry in their midst and be ready to support them.

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