Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Teaching organisation

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning or the equivalent of 10 hours per week for 15 weeks. The total includes formally structured learning activities such as lectures, tutorials, online learning, videoconferencing, or supervision. The remaining hours typically involve reading, research, and the preparation of tasks for assessment.

Unit rationale, description and aim

Timely, effective and compassionate use of the Church’s liturgical rituals and prayers for people facing serious illness and death, can enable ordained and lay pastoral ministers to provide appropriate spiritual support in health-care settings. This unit considers the understanding of the human person contained in the Church’s liturgical rituals and prayers used in pastoral care of the sick and dying, and studies how these rites and prayers can offer consolation and a sense of Christian community during serious illness and at the end of life. It focuses, in particular, on understanding and using the Church’s ritual books: Pastoral Care of the Sick, Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist outside Mass and elements of the Order of Christian Funerals. It examines the administration of the Sacraments of Anointing of the Sick, Penance and Viaticum, and considers Catholic prayers appropriate to the various stages of illness and dying. This unit aims to provide students with theological understanding and practical knowledge of how to prepare and celebrate liturgy and prayer sensitively and appropriately in pastoral care settings. 

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Exhibit an understanding of the biblical and theological foundations of anointing the sick, reconciling individuals in danger of death and offering Viaticum when death is immanent (GA5, GA8)

LO2 - Articulate a Christian theological understanding of illness and dying, especially its ecclesiological and eschatological dimensions as expressed in Pastoral Care of the Sick and parts of the Order of Christian Funerals (GA5)

LO3 - Explain the pastoral value in employing Catholic prayers and rituals during serious illness or at the end of life (GA1, GA5)

LO4 - Explain how a pastoral carer can effectively assist the ill or dying person to partake of the Church’s rites (GA1, GA3)

LO5 - Identify the various options available in the Catholic rites for serious illness and dying (GA3, GA8)

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 


Topics will include:

  • Scriptural and theological foundations for Christian teaching on illness and dying
  • Understanding of the human person evidenced in the Church’s rites for the ill and dying
  • Theologies of illness and dying found in Pastoral Care of the Sick and parts of the Order of Christian Funerals
  • The role of Christian prayer and ritual at times of serious illness and the end of life
  • Practical application of the prayer and ritual options found in Pastoral Care of the Sick and parts of Order of Christian Funerals and the conditions for their use
  • Appropriate ministers for the celebration of the rites
  • The ministry of pastoral carers during serious illness and the process of dying
  • The role of the Christian community in the pastoral care of the sick, the dying and their loved ones
  • A critical evaluation of contemporary attitudes toward and practices surrounding illness and death, in light of the theology enshrined in the Church’s rites.

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

The unit is normally offered in intensive face-to-face mode which enables students to interact directly with the lecturer and fellow class members as they consider carefully structured and sequenced unit materials designed to support the achievement of the unit’s learning outcomes. In face-to-face class sessions students are provided with the opportunity to learn with experts in liturgy and prayer and to work collaboratively in groups to discuss key principles and critically analyse their application to specific practical examples; identify and assess their own presuppositions and current perceptions regarding liturgy and prayer in pastoral care settings and how these might change in light of exposure to unit content; and engage in practical activities which enable them to reflect critically on key unit content, analyse and integrate new information with existing knowledge, draw meaningful new connections and then work individually to apply what they have learned in assessment tasks. Assessment tasks are integrated into the unit as appropriate to the mode in which it is offered (i.e., students may prepare and present an assessment task during the intensive week; if the unit is offered in a different mode – e.g., fully online, in-class presentation assessments may be replaced with different equivalent tasks appropriate to the mode of learning). Assessment tasks are designed to provide a variety of opportunities for students to demonstrate their achievement of the unit’s learning outcomes and to enable them to go beyond the unit materials presented during the face-to-face classes so that they can engage in analysis and research tasks which require them to apply the knowledge they have gained through exposure to the unit’s lectures, tutorials, reading, analyses and exercises.

The intensive face-to-face learning mode requires students to attend class sessions and interact actively with the lecturer and fellow class members during those sessions to learn, assimilate and begin integrating key concepts covered in the unit; and sometimes to work in small groups to prepare and offer presentations in class. Following the class, students are expected to work independently to synthesise and embed concepts, information and principles covered during the class sessions through follow-up reading, individual research, writing and submission of assessment tasks.

Assessment strategy and rationale

To pass this unit students are required to attempt all assessment tasks and achieve a cumulative grade of Pass (50% or higher). The assessment tasks for this unit are designed to enable students to demonstrate their achievement of each learning outcome.

Assessment Task 1: Practical Exercises with Critical Reflection. This assessment task requires students to prepare a pastoral care plan for a specific scenario facing practitioners in Catholic health-care/pastoral care situations, including the preparation of relevant rites and prayers, critically reflecting on why they have chosen to include the different aspects of their plan and rites/prayers and what these will offer to the person receiving pastoral care. In undertaking this task, students will be mindful of the need to respect the dignity of each individual receiving pastoral care and will reflect on how the values, knowledge, skills and attitudes utilised and enacted in the provision of pastoral care influence its reception.

Assessment Task 2: Analysis. This assessment task requires students to analyse and identify theological principles and assertions from Pastoral Care of the Sick that challenge contemporary practices surrounding illness and dying and evaluate their influence on the process of pastoral care. This assessment task provides an opportunity for students to demonstrate and articulate their understanding of several key aspects of the central material under consideration in this unit in a focused manner.

Assessment Task 3: Major Essay. Utilizing the knowledge gained through lectures, exercises, unit materials and readings (along with relevant additional primary and secondary bibliographic references), students will research and write a major essay which enables them to engage in an extended investigation and critical consideration of a topic central to the unit. This assessment offers students the chance to demonstrate a synthesis of knowledge and insight gained throughout the unit.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Practical Exercises with Critical Reflection: require students to develop a plan of pastoral care for a specific scenario, including the preparation of the relevant rites, critically reflecting on the choices made. 



GA4, GA5, GA9

Analysis: requires students to identify theological principles and assertions from Pastoral Care of the Sick that challenge contemporary practices surrounding illness and dying and evaluate their influence on the process of pastoral care.


LO3, LO4, LO5

GA1, GA3, GA5

Essay: requires students to research and write an essay on the Christian theology of illness and dying, drawing on the theological principles, rites and prayers of Pastoral Care of the Sick and relevant parts of the Order of Christian Funerals and their ecclesiological and eschatological implications.


LO1, LO2

GA5, GA8, 

Representative texts and references

Dallen, James and Joseph Favazza. Removing the Barriers: The Practice of Reconciliation. Chicago:

Liturgy Training Publications, 1991.

Duffy, Regis A. A Roman Catholic Theology of Pastoral Care. Eugene OR: Wipf and Stock, 2010.

Evans, Abigail Rian. Is God Still at the Bedside? The Medical, Ethical and Pastoral Issues of Death

and Dying. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011.

Gawande, Atul. Being Mortal: Illness, Medicine and What Matters in the End. London: Profile

Books/Random House, 2015.

Glen, Genevieve, Marilyn Kofler and Kevin O’Connor. Handbook for Ministers of Care. 2nd ed.

Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1997.

Kasza, John C. Understanding Sacramental Healing: Anointing and Viaticum. Chicago:

Liturgy Training Publications/Hillenbrand, 2007.

Keller, Paul Jerome. 101 Questions & Answers on the Sacraments of Healing: Penance and

Anointing of the Sick. Mahwah: Paulist, 2010.

Larson-Miller, Lizette. The Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. Collegeville: Liturgical, 2005.

Morrill, Bruce T. Divine Worship and Human Healing: Liturgical Theology at the Margins of Life and

Death. Collegeville: Liturgical, 2009.

Pembroke, Neil. Pastoral Care in Worship: Liturgy and Psychology in Dialogue. Edinburgh: T & T

Clark, 2009.

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