Introductory words for 5 Cluster Meetings, Spring 2018
A very warm welcome to you all here this evening! Fáilte Uí Cheallaigh romhaibh ar fad!
Many thanks to you all for coming from the various parishes in the clusters of X, Y,Z. This is one of 5 similar meetings in strategic locations of the diocese, rural and urban, from East to West.
Information and Listening
This evening is about three things:
- presenting a plan or vision and
- listening and consultation.
In the course of the evening you will be presented with relevant information, statistics and facts pertinent to your parish, cluster and diocese.
Presenting a Vision
A vision of plan or way forward in terms of proposing:
new structures of manageable cluster arrangements and secondly of seeking, training for and providing lay help in the area of administration, catechetics and pastoral work.
Crucially, it is also a consultation evening. Listening to your suggestions and advice about how we can move forward with the process of change that is necessary for us to survive and thrive into the future.
We gather in good faith on this evening to plan a way forward at this important time in our diocese. We are at an important cross roads in time. It is clear from many meetings, looking at hard facts and statistics and ongoing discernment, that a considerable degree of change is necessary for us to survive and continue to serve the pastoral needs of the people of the Church of Killaloe.
Planning in recent Years
A number of years ago there was an extensive listening process culminating in a Pastoral Plan, Builders of Hope.
Following an extensive review of that plan by Martin Kennedy, after it being in place for some time – a director of pastoral planning was put in place, Fr. Ger Nash and he along with his team of Maureen Kelly and Jean Gaynor have been working diligently on the areas identified.
Input on Change
In Spring of last year the priests of the diocese met in Esker look at the process of the dynamic of change. They were led in an analysis of what makes it possible to embrace change and causes resistance to same.
Pastoral Letter – Easter 2017
Just before Easter last year I issued a pastoral letter giving an account of the steps to date and indicating the direction we were going on that road.
Last November there was an assembly of the priests of the diocese in Loughrea and some lay representatives from pastoral councils participated on one evening.
Time for Change – Time for Action
Following all that consultation and planning and after further consultation by Fr. Ger and Maureen with clusters, council of priests, diocesan pastoral council,
following individual meetings between myself and all the priests in active ministry –
it is clear that the time is ripe for moving the proposed changes on.
The Plan – being “my plan”
Because I am relatively new to the diocese – just over 18 months here, and some of the process started before my arrival – some people have asked me if I am fully on board with the process and my clear answer to that is that I am indeed, most certainly. I have fully bought-inand support each step of this important process from Builders of Hope to this evening.
It wouldn’t make sense to me for it to be any other way, with the genuine, meticulous, well researched and faith filled work that has gone into this process from beginning to end!
I see each step as part of a work in progress, a clear sequence, a progression, a deepening and refining of the process –
not abandoning one process in favour of the other.
What I am bringing to you tonight will be complemented with yourfurther advice and comments in relation to it.
A workable solution!
It is what I believe a workable solution to the major challenges that face us in the future, short and long term.
I have come to this conclusion based on the data and information gathered from the detailed consultation process and the information given by Ger and Maureen who have been deeply involved in the whole process, in such a diligent and professional manner.
This is the plan or vision that I have been working from and hope to continue to work towards for the foreseeable future until it will need further development.
Ongoing Change as a result of this evening
Following consultation and advice with yourselves on this evening and taking the other 4 meetings into account also – the first phase of the proposed and on-going change will begin. Of course it will be a work in progress and tonight is a stepping stone on the way towards the implementation of this.
Diocesan Appointments 2018
Please God, flesh will be put on the bones of the result of that process with the tweaking of the cluster of pastoral areas and whatever clerical or diocesan appointments will be made this Summer along with plans for greater lay involvement unveiled this evening.
Cluster appointments rather than Parish
It will probably emerge in the course of discussion that many of the clerical or diocesan appointments may have to be, more in the future,
to a cluster area,
some based around an urban hub
some in rural areas
rather than specifically to an individual parish. As you know this is in existence already in places and many parishes at this stage have no resident priest at all, over 1/3 of our parishes actually, which is very stark! Ger will give very concrete details on that.
Care of Clergy
One of the big themes that emerged in Loughrea was the burden of overwork on so many of the ever decreasing priests of the diocese. Many feel burnt out and exhausted under the burden of new demands, including safeguarding, vulnerable adults, property admin, finance, data-protection, risk assessment for venues. This list increases each year!
Unloading the Wagons
One of the phrases that emerged in Loughrea was “unloading the wagons”. This was from a book on ministry called “The Lost Art of Walking on Water”. Unloading the Wagons represents the idea that as priests we are called to lead the “pastoral wagon” and not be overly involved in the concrete non-pastoral tasks of loading the wagons with more and more administrative tasks,
(good and all and necessary as they are)
But may distract or take from the primary pastoral mission.
The overall conclusion is that – We need to change the way we do ministry.
The other conclusion was that – We need to change the structures. The physical structures that we suitable for a different time with a different set of personnel.
The reason we need to do this is that the number of Churches and the amount of services provided were set up for a time when there were over twice the number of priests,
many more people in the parishes were regularly practicing their faith and
modes of transport were not as convenient.
I got a message on social media from a class mate today who was quoting a comment on twitter today from James Mallin. “Pray for bishops and all in leadership in the Church. They labour under contradictory expectation that are experienced as ‘change everything by changing nothing’. !!!”
Summary of Questions
To summarize and before we get into some of the hard facts and reality followed by discussion – the big questions we are trying to address in the long term are:
- What kind of change is needed,
- How do we move from maintenance to mission,
- How do we change to do ministry differently,
- How do we get more community responsibility,
- How do we develop more collaboration between priests and people?
Maureen and Ger will in a few moments give some input on what I am proposing.
We will then have a time of discussion and seek feedback from yourselves.
Firstly we will ask what your reaction is to what you heard?
A series of guiding questions that were given to your cluster already that you may already have considered may be helpful to stimulate discussion.
An important question of what criteria will work well will be important to keep before us.
Proposals for Discussion
Two Visions, Strategies, Direction on offer
Two broad categories of Proposals, Visions, Strategies, Direction will then be presented to you for discussion and feedback
First Vision, Strategy, Direction
The first proposal, vision, strategy concerns the grouping of parishes or clusters or pastoral areas to ensure that each area is manageable in terms of size and will be a viable pastoral unit with a reasonable number or ratio of priests to people.
Second Vision, Strategy, Direction
Secondly concerning ministry. The proposal is to train lay people as Administrators in the areas of finance, data protection, safeguarding and the what might be called more vocational or pastoral roles of Cathechists as Pastoral Workers.
Administrative and Vocational roles
The administrative roles would be just that – administrative, calling on the skills of talented lay people and the roles of Catechists and Pastoral workers would be a vocational role.
This is the deepening of the pastoral plan, making concrete the vision of Builders of Hope.
Tonight, in particular we need to focus on the first strand of the two visions. We need your feedback.
Conclusion and Moving on
Based on the feedback given we will conclude and the proposals will begin to be implemented in the diocesan appointments of this year and arrangements for training for the proposed areas commenced.
Many thanks to you all for the discussion this evening.
So where do we go from here?
Quo Vadimus? Cá bhfuil ár dtriall?
Reminder – Sequence of 5 Meetings
Remember the meeting this evening is One of Five such meetings.
As a result of the five gatherings we will need to unite all the outcomes with a common strand, in order for it to fit in with what will work for the unit that is the diocese. It is natural that our thinking tends to be parochial. It takes a shift in vision and a change in gear to think in terms of cluster, the broader category of diocese and indeed then national and international Church.
We will gather, collate and assimilate the feedback obtained tonight.
We will gather and integrate into the feedback from the other 4 sessions.
I will present the information in either booklet or pastoral form, either before or after the diocesan appointments of this year.
I hope to make it part of our ongoing plan, Builders of Hope for the next number of years.
Second Vatican Council
The great vision of the documents of the Second Vatican was for a collaborative Church, for clergy and people working together. We are intent on moving forward together to implement this form of partnership in Church.
In his introduction to Builders of Hope, Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly put it well in expressing the hope that we are all in this project together as co-collaborators, with co-responsibility filled with a sense of Mission.
He says: “We are called to evangelize and actively promote God’s reign of justice, love and peace in our world. The Lord is our companion on the journey as he was with the disciples on the road to Emmaus. I invite you to set out to new horizons with the joy of the Holy Spirit in your hearts.”
Thanks for taking the time to come here tonight and be part of this consultative process.
Your presence, participation, guidance and advice is greatly appreciated and valued.
May God be with us in our mission of faith in the diocese for many years to come. Amen