A researcher, educator and Church historian with a deep commitment to the empowerment of lay people in the Church has joined the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference as an executive secretary.
Clara Geoghegan has this week taken on responsibility for two of the Conference’s episcopal commissions: the Bishops Commission for Evangelisation, Laity and Ministry, and the Bishops Commission for Relations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.
Ms Geoghegan said she is looking forward to helping support the ministries of the Catholic Church in Australia that work across those areas.
“We know that Indigenous Australians are bucking the national trend, with the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Catholics increasing between the last two national censuses, while overall numbers fell,” she pointed out.
“While we need to be responsive to the needs of all Catholic people, we have a special duty to nourish and nurture the faith of our Indigenous brothers and sisters. We can be guided by Pope Francis’ thoughts on the spiritual needs of indigenous peoples in his recent exhortation, Querida Amazonia.”
Ms Geoghegan said some significant changes within the Bishops Commission for Laity, Evangelisation and Ministry have created the need for new thinking about collaboration, drawing upon the talents of people across the Church.
“We understand that we have lost considerable wisdom with the cessation of some offices and some advisory councils,” she acknowledged.
“However, the Catholic network is blessed with committed and generous people who will embrace our new mandate and carry on the critical work in areas like lay participation, ministry and leadership, as well as clergy formation and support.”
Indeed, lay formation is one of Ms Geoghegan’s passions and strengths. She is the inaugural director of the Catherine of Siena Institute in Australia, which helps lay Catholics “discern their place in God’s plan”, to understand the principle of co-responsibility within the Church and to be aware of and equipped for their own role.
“In a Church that is increasingly calling upon the gifts of the laity, it is critical for us to understand our own mission as a lay person, a consecrated person or a member of the clergy in helping bring about the Kingdom of God in this country,” she said.
Ms Geoghegan has also been a lecturer in Church history and spirituality at Catholic Theological College in Melbourne, has worked as both a policy advisor and electoral officer for federal politicians and has most recently served as a researcher for a Canberra-based policy think tank.
Ms Geoghegan joins Alison Burt and Louise Zavone as the three full-time executive secretaries within the Bishops Conference.
With thanks to the ACBC.