A new book launched in Canberra yesterday will serve as a valuable resource for Catholic health and aged care services as lay people are called upon to serve in leadership roles that were previously held by religious and priests.

The Guide for Understanding the Governance of Catholic Health and Aged Care Services was produced by Catholic Health Australia, in conjunction with the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and Catholic Religious Australia. Representatives of all three organisations were present for yesterday's launch.

"The leadership of health and aged care ministries, which had been the domain of the religious and ordained, has increasingly fallen to others baptised in the Church," said Archbishop Denis Hart, president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference. "It is important that we empower and help to form those leaders, so they can govern Church ministries in a manner that is faithful to the Church's practices and expectations."

Catholic Health Australia stewardship board chair Tony Wheeler said Catholic health and aged care ministry follows on from Christ's healing ministry.

"It is therefore responding to God's call to bring alive the Gospel vision through services that reflect the sacredness of life and are grounded in love and respect for all, especially those who are weakest and most vulnerable," he said. "The governors of our hospital and aged care providers are aware of that call, and this guide is aimed at helping them express that understanding in their organisations."

The Guide for Understanding the Governance of Catholic Health and Aged Care Services offers leaders of Church ministries a reminder of the Catholic principles that guide the healing ministry of Jesus, an understanding of the implications of canon and civil law for those ministries, an explanation of the importance of formation in health and aged care services and a draft charter for boards to adapt for their own organisation.

"This resource is designed to be a living and breathing document that leaders use to assist them in the exercise of their governance of health and aged care services," said Sr Anne Derwin, RSJ, president of Catholic Religious Australia. "As religious, we are grateful that so many women and men are committed to carrying out Christ's healing ministry in these times and so continue the work begun by some of our congregations in this land."

The Australian Catholic Bishop Conference, Catholic Health Australia and Catholic Religious Australia offered their gratitude to the working group that prepared the Guide for Understanding the Governance of Catholic Health and Aged Care Services: Julia Abrahams, Sr Antoinette Baldwin RSJ, Dr John Ballard, Brendan Bowler, Sr Therese Carroll RSJ, Sr Helen Delaney RSM, Sr Bernadette Fitzgerald LCM, Martin Laverty, Sr Berneice Loch RSM, Fr Brian Lucas, Rowena McNally, Francis Moore, Bishop Joseph Oudeman OFMCap, Susan Sullivan, Fr Ian Waters, Tony Wheeler.

The book may be purchased via the Catholic Health Australia website by clicking here.

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