Parish secretaries – the engine of the Archdiocese
More than 40 parish secretaries from around the Archdiocese met at St Christopher’s Pastoral Centre on Wednesday, September 12 for the annual Parish Secretary Day.
The event, which has been going for more than a decade, has grown from 24 attendees in its first year to around 40-45 most years.
Parish Support Manager Deborah Foote said the day is equal parts recognising and thanking the secretaries, as well as providing them with new information and training.
This year representatives from the Catholic Development Fund were guest speakers.
“Our secretaries are truly the engine that runs the Archdiocese,” she said.
“People would be amazed at the amount of work these amazing people do.”
Deborah said the Parish Secretary Day, along with being a social get together and a great opportunity to network and put a face to the names they communicate with, was the main professional development for the secretaries each year.
“We try to bring in people from different areas of the archdiocese who have different areas of expertise so they’re up to date on the latest policies and regulations and what they need to know,” Deborah said.
“It’s a practical day with a little bit of spirituality… they went to mass this year which was very well received… so it’s a range of things that are relevant to their daily life in the parish.”
Increase in compliance
One of the biggest challenges facing the secretaries in recent years has been the sheer depth and breadth of information they are meant to be across, and experts in. As with all organisations, red tape and creeping administrative overload chews up more and more time.
“The secretaries are the point of contact, often the first person people speak with in the parish, and they’re expected to know everything,” said Deborah.
“Over the last six years at least they’ve had to know more and more things to do with government legislation. Compliance has been the biggest area of growth in the last 6-10 years.
“If someone wants to hire the parish premises, the secretaries have to make sure there’s a contract drawn up, that they have public liability, that they have working with children checks if necessary. They have to explain if there’s a fee involved, have to make sure the place is left in a neat and tidy condition, have to explain work health and safety rules, and all in a friendly, lovely manner.
“Not to mention the many other tasks they cover… book-keeping, new technologies and software, websites and facebook they look after… it’s a huge load they carry and we are very lucky to have such helpful, positive and caring secretaries doing so much for us.”