Priesthood in a Synodal Church, Encountering Reality, Listening Deeply and Discerning Ways Forward
Opening Address – Bishop Fintan Monahan
Annual Killaloe Inservice for Clergy
Loughrea Hotel and Spa
Sunday 15th of October 2023
Welcome to you all this evening as we begin our annual in-service: Priesthood in a Synodal Church, Encountering Reality, Listening Deeply and Discerning Ways Forward.
Since 2017 apart from the years of pandemic – this gathering here in Loughrea has become part of our routine, part of our calendar. It is a time to gather, renew acquaintances, share the company of each other, get to know each other better, relax a bit, pray often, do some meaningful reflecting and discerning together as we plan for the future.
We are very much at a threshold time in our lives as priests of Killaloe and in the life of the diocese. In these synodal times we are being called to something new. In some ways this will be a shedding of the past, while at the same time retaining what is important and essential from our heritage and tradition.
Two big things in the past year have been and continue to be important to us as a diocese:
- the gatherings we had in Spring of this year
- and the Synodal Pathway, called by Pope Francis at international level and our supplement to that at local level, here in Ireland.
Our gatherings around the diocese this Spring endeavoured to meet, discuss and discern a steer for the diocese in a synodal manner. Details of what have emerged have been sent to you on hard copy. A summary hard-copy in booklet form is available for collection these days and this pastoral: Moving forward in Faith, Hope and Love will be launched next Sunday, Mission Sunday.
Some details of that will be part of our first session here in the morning tomorrow, please God. The rest of our days together will be a further unpacking of that.
I’m not going to say much more this evening. Before our time of prayer, Martin Kennedy, our facilitator will give a brief outline of the few days and we will take it from there, leaving ourselves open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the days to come.
I’ll finish with two items, a poem and an image as food for thought, that might percolate in our minds as we begin these days together.
There is a poem entitled Trasna written by a Presentation Sister, Sr Raphael Considine that I like very much. It was used by Fr. Aidan McGrath, Provincial of the Franciscans at a recent national Chapter. No more than with the Franciscans and all religious orders we too are in a time of much change, that liminal space. Trasna runs:
The pilgrims paused on the ancient stones
In the mountain gap.
Behind them stretched
The roadway they had travelled.
Already a far journey was it a lifetime?
Ahead, mist hid the track
Unspoken the question hovered.
Why go on? Is life not short enough?
Why seek to pierce its mystery?
Why venture further on strange paths, risking all?
Surely that is a gamble for fools … or lovers.
Why not return quietly by the known road?
Why be a pilgrim still?
A voice they knew called to them, saying.
This is Trasna, the crossing-place.
Choose! Go back if you must,
You will find your way easily by yesterday’s road,
You can pitch your tent by Yesterday’s fires,
There may be life in the embers yet.
If that is not your deep desire,
Stand still Lay down your load.
Take your life firmly in your two hands,
(Gently. you are trusted with something precious).
While you search your heart’s yearnings
What am I seeking? What is my quest?
When your star rises deep wit
Trust yourself to its leading.
You will have light for your first steps.
This is Trasna, the crossing-place. Choose!
This is Trasna, the crossing-place, Come!
Sr Raphael Considine PBVM
Secondly and finally: the image of light at the end of the poem is echoed in some words of Pope Francis,
“Faith is not a light which scatters all our darkness, but a lamp which guides our steps in the night and suffices for the journey.”
We are not alone in the dark.
Let’s listen to the voice calling to us.
Let’s move forward, in faith, hope and love towards the future.