The establishment of the Association of Ministerial PJPs Ltd in May this year marked an historic development in relation to lay leadership of ministries conducted by the Catholic Church. The Association is the peak body for the new Australian public juridic persons (PJPs) like Mary Aikenhead Ministries.
In recent years, religious institutes, such as the Sisters of Charity, have instigated the creation of ministerial PJPs as a new model of sponsorship and of lay leadership for their ministries to ensure their continuation as works of the Catholic Church. The establishing authority for the new entities has varied – some PJPs, like Mary Aikenhead Ministries, have been established by the Holy See through the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life and are known as PJPs of pontifical right. Others have been authorised by Australian Diocesan or Provincial Bishops.
While the model varies, such religious-lay partnerships have in common the continuation of Church ministries. Thus, the ministerial PJPs provide for long-term stable governance of the ministries and continuance of their Catholic identity with the trustees (canonical stewards) of the respective PJPs generally having both canonical and civil responsibility for the ministries entrusted to them.
For three years, the Australian ministerial PJPs worked together to put in place their ‘umbrella’ body (which is comparable to Catholic Religious Australia for the religious institutes). Such a development was important as a means for the PJPs to interact formally with one another and, in a corporate sense, with the Bishops and Church agencies.
The aims of the new Association are to:
- offer a contemporary, encouraging example of Christ’s mission at work in the world;
- enable the co-responsibility of the laity and clergy for the life of the Church and its ministries;
- facilitate collegial interaction between canonical stewards of the member PJPs;
- provide the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Catholic Religious Australia and other Catholic entities with a point of liaison with member PJPs and their canonical stewards;
- support canonical stewards in their ministry of governance;
- promote and proclaim Catholic identity as an integral part of the PJPs ministries.
Vatican II sought to promote the “vocation of the laity” and highlighted that “modern conditions demand that their apostolate be broadened and intensified … An indication of this manifold and pressing need is the unmistakable work being done today by the Holy Spirit in making the laity ever more conscious of their own responsibility and encouraging them to serve Christ and the Church in all circumstances” (Apostolicam Actuositatem: Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People, 1963, §1).
Significantly, the Association of Ministerial PJPs is the first such ‘umbrella’ body of ministerial PJPs internationally. It is seeking to foster the trustees’ ministry of canonical governance through a relational, collegial and collaborative approach and, recognising the diversity of the Australian ministerial PJPs, to be inclusive in supporting them and their canonical stewards to flourish individually and together as a new Church sector.
Together with Mary Aikenhead Ministries, the founding members of the Association of Ministerial PJPs are Calvary Ministries, Catholic Healthcare, Dominican Education Australia, Edmund Rice Education Australia, Good Samaritan Education, Kildare Ministries, Mercy Partners and St John of God Australia Ltd. MercyCare in Western Australia and other entities which are currently petitioning to become ministerial PJPs intend to become members, when appropriate. Together these PJPs make a major contribution to Catholic education, health, aged care and social services across Australia.