The Chancery Office has a diverse role. Chancery Staff have a threefold focus. Chancery Staff support the Bishop and his leadership of the Diocese of Parramatta, they support Parish Administration through our response to the many and varied requests that come from Parish Secretaries and Parish Finance staff, and Chancery Staff provide a conduit and coordination axis for Diocesan Agencies and Ministries in their role of assisting Bishop Vincent in his pastoral and leadership Ministry.
Chancery Staff bring to their roles a wide diversity of experience. This experience includes finance, property, human resources, administration, fundraising, information technology, risk, clergy health and welfare, archives and communication. Culturally, too, Chancery staff reflects the diversity of our Diocese. What unites this team is a vibrant commitment to our faith values and a strong desire to serve the needs of the Church in Western Sydney and The Blue Mountains.
Reflecting on the year that has passed, Chancery achievements reflect the diversity of activity that crosses our desks every day. Catholic Outlook went entirely digital and is now averaging over 25 000 hits a month on that website, hitting almost 100,000 hits in September. There has been significant growth in social media channels for the Diocese, with Facebook ‘Likes’ now over 8500, second out of all the other Dioceses in Australia behind the Melbourne Archdiocese. New websites have been built for the parishes of the Cathedral, Upper Blue Mountains, Blackheath, and Winston Hills, for CCD and for Catholic Youth Parramatta. Successful interviews with prominent members of the Church hierarchy have added insight and diversity of thought to Catholic Outlook’s digital presence.
A major achievement for the Chancery team in 2017 has been the establishment and launch of The Catholic Foundation. The Foundation replaces the Diocesan Works Fund and is now the vehicle for funding the Bishop’s charitable and educational works within the Diocese. This includes CatholicCare, the Ephpheta Centre for the Deaf, the Holy Spirit Seminary and the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine. The launch of The Catholic Foundation on 19 November 2017 has been the fruit of two years of research, planning, and consultation with various agencies, charities, Parishes and members of the community of the Diocese. A significant aspect of this fundraising initiative is the institution of the Ambassadors of Faith, Hope and Charity giving program.
A renewed focus for Chancery in 2017 has been the development of the Clergy Health and Welfare Team. This team was born out of a study conducted by the Clergy Support Foundation for Retired Clergy that was completed in 2016 and reviewed the support the Diocese gives to our retired priests. The Health and Welfare Team bring 45 years of combined nursing experience and have coordinated and facilitated over recent months assistance to the retired priests of the Diocese in a broad range of areas including cooking classes, computer skills development, preparation of legal documents, development of personal fitness programmes, pharmaceutical reviews, arrangements for in-home support and assistance with holiday planning arrangements.
During 2017 the Property and Finance Teams have worked closely together to ensure proper stewardship of the assets of the Diocese. In 2017 the sale of Marion Nursing Home to Southern Cross Care was finalised and the divestment of the sale proceeds to CatholicCare Social Services and the Clergy Support Foundation for Retired Clergy of the Diocese. The opening of the new Seminary accommodation and teaching building at Harris Park, coupled with the opening of the new apartment building for Diocesan retired Clergy, has seen the completion of Stages 1 and 2 of the Harris Park development that started in 2014. Stage 3 of this development, a block of 21 apartments that will provide the Diocese with a source of annuity income for the future will commence shortly and be concluded in early 2019.
In January this year, Bishop Vincent gave his support and approval to the ongoing redevelopment of 10-12 Victoria Road and the historic Marist Place/Victoria Road/O’Connell Street sites. This Project has been at the forefront of much activity for the Finance and Property teams of the Diocese since 2010. Over the course of 2017, the re-development of St Patrick’s Quarter has been generated. We are still a long way from any construction as there is still much work and consultation to be completed with Parramatta Council, St Patrick’s Parish Community, and the NSW Government. Finance and Property have also been working closely with a number of Parishes to support the proper utilisation of Parish assets so that these Parishes can build sustainable futures. A special focus has been the Blacktown, Glenwood Stanhope, and Glenmore Park Projects. The Diocese of Parramatta is also collaborating with the Diocese of Broken Bay in the development of an extensive historical land development project at Springwood in the Blue Mountains.
Much progress has been made in 2017 in the information technology support for the Diocese with Phase 2 of a total IT overall of our systems nearing completion. This was a large project that commenced late in 2015 when it was recognised that the Diocese was falling behind other Dioceses in our system and information capacity. Now that we have a strong and effective IT platform, Phase 3 will see the implementation in coming months of a new records management, finance and business intelligence system as well as the finalisation of one email system and the launch of the intranet for the Diocese.
Since 2007 the Diocese of Parramatta has placed a strong emphasis on risk management. After the Risk Management Framework was completed in 2015 a new risk management system was introduced to Chancery, Catholic Education, the Diocesan Development Fund and CatholicCare in 2016 and 2017. The next phase of the introduction of this system is into our Parishes, with the Northern Deanery Parishes completed to date.
2017 has been a very busy year for Chancery. While projects and the implementation of new systems and support processes for the Diocese have led to much activity over the year, it is the Parish Support processes and service to our stakeholders that activates and energises the whole team. The conduct of our first Parish and Ministry service support feedback survey has given all the teams a renewed focus and framework for their day-to-day service activity. It is this day-to-day response to the many queries, problems and issues that is at the heart of Chancery office existence. Chancery Staff are proud of the fact that we belong to the fifth largest Diocese in Australia, the fastest growing Diocese and the most diverse. With this growth and diversity comes complexity and challenge. It is this challenge that dictates and drives our daily activity and service.
On behalf of the whole Team, a very happy and blessed Christmas to you all.
By Geoff Officer, Chief of Operations & Finance, Diocese of Parramatta
This article first appeared in the December 2017 print edition of Catholic Outlook.
At the request of Most Rev Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, Catholic Outlook was printed in December 2017 to connect the Diocese and showcase the good works across the Diocese’s many agencies and ministries.