Ongoing Formation & Support for the Clergy - Diocese of Nottingham
Mrs Karen Foong BA(Hon) MBA MA
Rev Michael Moore, Episcopal Vicar for Clergy
Revv  Benedict Abuo, Paul Chipchase, John Guest,
Martin Hardy, Raymond Keogh, John Martin,
Paul Newman, Joseph O'Hanlon

Rev Mgr John Hadley

      Our approach to ongoing formation has always been a holistic one; addressing the needs and well-being of our priests and deacons by supporting and resourcing their human, spiritual, intellectual, and personal development.  Creating this culture of ongoing formation has grown from humble beginnings.  The 'committee' responsible for ongoing formation came together in 1996 when Bishop James McGuinness asked a group of priests to devise a policy for sabbaticals.  In our attempts to address sabbaticals, it became clear that there were wider issues involved, and some discontent felt by priests at the time. A questionnaire was circulated and discussed at deanery meetings in order to indicate which areas of ministry needed more effective support.

      Our first annual conference, open to all priests in our diocese, took place in 1997 to discuss ways in which support could be improved. The result of this conference identified many areas of concern which required further development.  The committee's raison d'être came into being.  We made contact with other dioceses in England and Wales and discovered that they too, were trying to address some of the same issues.  Our diocese joined the National Conference of Ongoing Formation Directors in 1998.

      We differ slightly from other diocese in that we have a sizable committee   so that there would be representation from various clergy groups (junior clergy, overseas priests, retired priests, diaconate, vocations,), and because there were many areas of responsibility.  It soon became apparent that a more 'professional' approach to our work was required so a layperson joined the group in 1999 in charge of pursuing relevant programmes for ongoing formation, ensuring that committee member's areas of responsibility were co-ordinated, and relieving the director (a priest already with many pastoral and diocesan duties) of administrative tasks. 

      In 2000, Bishop McGuinness retired and the committee paused for breath.  Bishop Malcolm called for a Diocesan Assembly and a wider consultation among the clergy also took place. It was identified that annual conferences and various other events were needed so that clergy could gather together to be "just clergy".

      The Second Vatican Council and Canon Law make it clear that ongoing formation of the clergy is not an option or luxury, but a necessity.  Today we recognise that Bishops and Directors for Ongoing Formation need to be passionate about providing support and lifelong learning for priests and deacons as well as paying close attention to the present realities of pastoral life.

      To resource these efforts, the Office of Ongoing Formation & Support for the Clergy (previously the Committee for Ongoing Formation) in our diocese is now based at the Curial Offices in Willson House, run by the Director, Mrs Karen Foong, who is often the "first port of call" for any priest and deacon who have questions or concerns. This outreach is supported by, Fr Michael Moore, Delegate for Clergy, and Advisers; Frs Benedict Abuo, Paul Chipchase, John Guest, Martin Hardy, Paul Newman, Deacons Raymond Keogh and Joe Dawson. In our mission together, we ensure that our junior priests are sustained in the early years of ministry and that our more experienced clergy, including overseas priests, deacons and retired priests, remain focused and supported in their faithful service to the Church.

      The programmes we provide in our service to diocesan clergy include: study days, in-service training, yearly clergy retreats, clergy days of recollection, reflective practice, pastoral review, and annual clergy conferences.

      It is important to note that these programmes, however well devised, do not constitute ongoing formation. Ongoing formation is an attitude that should accompany pastoral service, and as such, include the active participation of the lay faithful in the journey towards communion and fulfilling the mission of the Church.  It is not 'time-off' from the parish but a way of making ministry more faithful, effective, and fruitful; accepted positively by priest & people for the benefit of all.