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Attendees at the conference in Sydney ( The Bridge)

Clergy workload, mental health and cultural challenges for overseas-born priests were some of the issues discussed at a recent national gathering of clergy life and ministry diocesan directors. Source: The Bridge.

The June 26-29 conference in Sydney saw 30 diocesan directors gather for the first time since the last national meeting in 2019. The conference serves as a way for clergy to build fraternity, develop support networks and reflect upon shared joys and challenges.

Chair of the national clergy life and ministry’s interim committee, Fr Wim Hoekstra, said the first part of the conference was spent discussing some of the common challenges priests were facing nationally.

“The main issues were, firstly, the mental health of clergy, especially those who were isolated, especially in the country and regional dioceses, where they are very much by themselves and the nearest priest might be a couple of hundred kilometres away,” he said.

Another common challenge identified by clergy life and ministry directors was the difficulties that priests coming from overseas can face when placed in a parish setting.

“The second issue raised was around the overseas-born clergy, whom we warmly welcome, but who often face cultural issues with language and ways of doing things,” Fr Wim said.

“We’re trying to work on that, but that’s an issue that’s come up over the years.”

The workload and pressure clergy face were also explored – another factor that has proven to contribute to the mental health and wellbeing of priests.

“Parish priests who have other roles can spend a lot of their time behind the desk rather than trying to go out and be available for various ministries or visitation,” Fr Wim said.

The second part of the conference was focused on learning how to deal with change, with Dr David Paul, a lecturer at Australian Catholic University and a consultant in change management, leading attendees through a series of six sessions.


Clergy tackle emerging challenges at national conference (By Matthew Biddle, The Bridge)