Pastoral associate answers Lord's call
Joan Bartman of St. Margaret Mary Parish, Neenah, likes challenge
Fourth in a series on the annual Bishop's Appeal
By Joanne Flemming
What: Bishop's Appeal, the Green Bay Diocese's annual fund-raiser
to support diocesan programs and services offered to parishes and
Where: All parishes in the diocese.
When: Right now.
How: Making a cash, check or pledge donation. Materials have been
sent to homes and also are available through parishes.
Theme: Summoned to Serve.
Target: $4.1 million.
When the Lord called Joan Bartman of Appleton to pastoral ministry, she said she answered, "Here I am," just as Samuel did
when he was called to be a prophet.
Bartman, a pastoral associate at St. Margaret Mary Parish in
Neenah, believes she has always had a call to ministry, but was
only able to answer it 15 years ago.
She was a volunteer at St. Bernard Parish in Appleton, when the
pastoral associate there gave her a brochure on the Green Bay
Diocese's Commissioned Ministry program, which receives funding
from the Bishop's Appeal to train lay ministers and deacons to
serve in parishes.
"That was the Spirit of God at work, I think," said Bartman.
She attended Commissioned Ministry classes to prepare her to
enter the master's program in theological studies at St. Norbert
College. She was commissioned as a pastoral minister in 1989 and
received her master's degree in 1995.
Her first job as a pastoral associate was in De Pere at St.
Boniface Parish, which has since merged with St. Joseph Parish to
become Our Lady of Lourdes.
Bartman called her position a "wonderful beginning" to her
ministry as a pastoral associate - a position whose
responsibilities vary in each parish.
The variety is what she likes best - "working with, ministering
with and to people in many different situations in life (and) the
depth of those situations as well."
In De Pere, she helped start the human concerns committee, which
ministered to people in the parish and community. She also
ministered to the sick, homebound and persons in nursing homes.
After six years in De Pere, she was ready for a full-time
challenge. She found that challenge at St. Margaret Mary, a
larger parish, where the job description was similar, except
"there was more to each area of the job" and "good opportunities
to involve parishioners in the projects."
She speaks with pride about the St. Margaret Mary human concerns
committee and how it has expanded its work in the last five
years. One new area is a meal ministry. Volunteers make and
deliver meals to people during illnesses or after a baby's birth
or a death.
She's pleased with the parish's decision to tithe 2% of the
weekend collections to the human concerns committee to help
people in the parish, the community and beyond. The parish has
adopted a Native American family on the Pine Ridge Reservation in
In both De Pere and Neenah, she has enjoyed leading prayer and
reflections on Scripture.
Bartman said her love of people, sense of compassion and ability
to listen have helped her in her ministry.
"I see myself as being compassionate. I've lived through some
hard things in my own life. I think you become more compassionate
and become less judgmental," she said. "I think I have some gifts
of listening to others, of hearing what is deep inside. I like
being with people ... the recognition that all of us have gifts
and that God is at work in each life."
She said the commissioned ministry program helped her develop
these gifts by giving her "a good foundation in basic theology."
It also opened her to a network of people from across the diocese
to whom she can turn when she needs help or has questions.
This networking has opened up other ministry opportunities for
her, including leading retreats at Holy Name Retreat House on
Chambers Island and serving on its advisory committee. She is
enrolled in a three-year program at the Norbertine Spirituality
Center to become a spiritual director.
Bartman has served as a sponsor for commissioned ministry
students and last year taught a class for the program. She also
is a member of the pastoral associate organization.
There are 124 students in the Commissioned Ministry program and
15 will be commissioned this spring, for a total of 137 persons