Paul Bennett may be well into retirement, but thanks to a scholarship from Australian Catholic University, his life’s most important work is about to begin.
The 72-year-old, who is pursuing ACU’s Master of Theological Studies, is the recipient of the 2023 ACU Centre for Liturgy Postgraduate Scholarship, an award he says comes with immense responsibilities.
With the scholarship, the devoted Catholic is hoping to use his liturgical studies in pastoral care of the sick and in an educational role in the community of Kangaroo Island.
Kangaroo Island is located 110km southwest of Adelaide, or five and half hours in travel time, and home to about 4700 people. The island’s small Catholic community, where Mr Bennett and his wife worship and volunteer as pastoral care workers, is visited frequently by priests to celebrate Mass.
However, Mr Bennett said the realities of living on a remote island – Australia’s third largest – meant the laity were responsible for pastorally caring for the community, including those who were seriously ill or dying.
“I hope to assist our overworked priests by providing liturgical support wherever I can as they have to travel a great distance to bring us the sacraments,” Mr Bennett said.
Mr Bennett will use the scholarship to provide a wider understanding of sacraments and sacramentality and he also hopes to extend this study into pastoral applications of the liturgy for the sick.
As well as studying theology at ACU, he is undertaking a ministry formation course with the Archdiocese of Adelaide due to a strong desire to become a permanent deacon, although his age may prevent him from being ordained.
“It is my desire to be of the most service I can be,” Mr Bennett said.
ACU Centre for Liturgy director, Professor Clare Johnson, said Mr Bennett exemplified the Church’s vision for lay people to have a key role in providing evangelisation and pastoral care, especially in remote locations.