Concluding Remarks – Loughrea Gathering – November 14th, 2018
Bishop Fintan Monahan
Vision for the Future
The leader of a certain tribe was dying. For many generations his people had been encamped at the base of a large mountain. The chief summoned the three sons and said: “I am dying: before my death, I must choose one of you to succeed me as the head of our tribe. I have the same task for each of you. I want you to climb our holy mountain and bring me back something beautiful. The one whose gift is the most outstanding will be one who will succeed me.”
The following morning the sons set out on their search, each taking a different path to the top of the holy mountain. After several days the three sons returned.
The firstbrought his father a flower which grew near the summit of the mountain; it was extremely rare and beautiful.
The secondson brought his father a valuable stone, round and colourful, which had been polished by rain and sandy winds.
When the thirdson approached his father, everyone saw that his hands were empty.
The empty handed sonsaid to his father: “I have brought back nothing to show you father. As I stood on the top of the holy mountain I saw that on the other side was a beautiful land filled with green pastures. In the middle of these pastures there is a crystal lake. And I have a vision of where our tribe could go for a better life. I was so overwhelmed with what I saw and by what I could see that I could not bring back anything.”
And the fatherreplied “You shall be our tribes new leader, for you have brought back the most precious thing of all – the gift of a vision for a better future!
The Mountain top that is Loughrea In-Service
During these few days we have been taking time to take a look ahead from the metaphorical top of the mountain that is our annual in-service to look ahead to what we believe will make for a better future!
I thank each and every one of you for participating in these few days. I thank you for your engagement, diligence, hard work, honesty, “realness” and earnest taking part.
I’m reminded of John Burke, Clareman of the Year who in describing a key moment near the summit ofMountEverest last year when he was tempted to give up. A concerned colleague tapped him on the shoulder as he lay exhausted in the freezing ice and gave a word of encouragement. “One small step at a time” was the encouraging word. These few days we have taken another small step in the diocesan journey.
Killaloe Journey in recent times
It is another step on a long journey that most of you have been on for many years. For the past 20 years or so, following an astute reading of the signs of the times – there have been pastoral plans. There have been assemblies. There have been reviews of pastoral plans. Implementation groups were appointed. A Pastoral development team arose out of that. Many consultations were done with clergy and lay people. Statements of intent were gleaned from last year’s assembly and after many years of consultation we finally came up with a clear plan of Team Ministry last Summer.
What is the plan?
So what is the plan for the future?
A helpful guideline summary of the plan is on our pink sheet.
This is the plan. We are up and running. We have moved house. This plan now in the urban street, on the rural road and open for business.
As we have reflected in the last session – the degree to which this plan has so far ‘landed’ varies somewhat in each pastoral area.
Summary Essence of the new “Team Ministry”
We have – Smaller Pastoral Areas.
Rotation of priests.
Weekly Meetings to plan, review and pray together.
Encouragement of lay involvement in all aspects of Church life.
It’s a plan that we carefully worked out for years and signed off on last Spring out of the necessity of the starkness of having so many parishes with no resident priest, 22 last year and 18 in the new system.
Lamenting and grieving the Loss of the Old…
We would all dearly love to hold on to the old system.
We are sad, sorry, bereft, bereaved and frustrated to abandon the old way that was so good for so long, but no longer fit for purpose.
We are grieving the loss of the intimate parish per priest sytem where we were close to the people, but we have no other option but to go this route or the system will become unmanageable in a very short period of time.
Moreover as one priest said on Monday morning there is a sense of reliefthat we have finally moved. The vauluable talk has been converted into real and precise action. We have made the shift from the “I” to the “we” to use Judith’s phrase.
What is the vision for the Future?
This is the plan for the future.
The new team ministry is in the early stages. I appreciate your earnest engagement with it.
Timing for the gathering
I don’t think these few days could have come at a better time…
It is good to have this review at a very early stage, to check in, just in case some pastoral areas might be tempted to take a less than earnest approach to it.
I loved the images, themes and scriptural allusions that have guided us over the past few daysin prayer and Eucharist.
- The image from John O’Donoghue of being in a “Threshold” space. Following on from that the image of our work being that of “Threshing”.
- Rolling away the stones of our heart to see the Risen Lord.
- Leaving Egypt and courageously entering into the promised land.
- Planting our Roots in genuine Discipleship.
- Matthew lead us through the helpful images of the Ostrich, the Sticking Plaster towards the image of Jesus Christ knocking on our door, inviting us to be what the title of these few days were about Together for Mission.
- Martin Kennedy’s idea of the options available being to Deplore, Restoreor
- We contemplated the Gospel last night of the New wine for new wineskins, even though the new wine might not taste as good from the new vessel and may take some time to adjust and get used to the taste.
- I loved the Gospel image Damien helped us to enter into at Mass this morning- that of the single wheat grain; that if it doesn’t die to itself will not yield a rich harvest of grain. Movement from the “I” to the “we”.
- The image of the productive bees in the crumbling masonry was very effective in this mornings discussionfrom Brendan.
One Step at a time
Again, early stages…
Early Time of planning…and planting
One step at a time… we’ve tapped each other on the shoulder with words of such encouragement over the past days.
Much Consolidation… review, support is called for and will be necessary…and please God will be available…
We journeyed through issues collaboratively, individually, in small groups, with the full group. I gathered a sense of contentment and willingness to behappy to work well together in doing that.
As you might have guessed, I am utterly convinced that we are on the right road with this process. I have 100% trust in the integrity of the process and the plan on hand and in you and in the laity of your pastoral area to bring this news system from birth to maturity and for it to flourish. If I didn’t I wouldn’t be as calm about it as I am. I know most of you share that sense of optimism and trust with me and would hope and pray that with time even those in the realm of doubting Thomas might see the benefits of working as team. Remember the reflection of John Hughes from Romero – that we are but workers, not master builders. The Lord is in charge. In Him we place our trust!
United as family!
As my classmate Michael O’Meara put it so well yesterday in his customary words of wisdom – we are together in this plan as one family, united in single purpose.
Even within familes there can be difference of approach and we acknowledged that yesterday in the burning issues that arose.
Many issues of course have emerged and we have identified and named those in the past two days.
We know we are going to experience a Loss of Closeness… with people and parish. We have stayed with that pain.
Trauma, grief, loss for ourselves… loss of moral authority, status, prestige… position in society…
We reflected on the importance of holding that… before us, staying with that, maybe teasing this out as a group in the future and the implications of what this has done to us… John Hughes and Matthew Nunes were very helpful in pointing out the impotance of that.
Last evening we really got down to business in identifying the real burning issues:
Burning issues were identified and Categorised
- Optimizing and Playing to our Strengths
- Tools and supports for leadership
- Review of effectiveness of Geographical make up of Pastoral areas
- Coping with different standards
- Loss of closeness of people and parish
- Depth of interaction with lay people
- Lay people being centrally involved
- Shared vision between clergy and laity
- Facilitiation for laity as well as clergy at local level
- Faith crises
- Friendship and fraternity
- Trust in the process and people involved
- Naming and acknowledging the loss
- Team ministry giving rise to power struggles
- Diversity of implementation
- Diversity of priorities
- Audit and accountability of pastoral planning
- Working on manageable priorities
- Achievement of manageable and realistic targets
Identifying Immediate Priorities
This morning we had an opportunity to further analysise and work on which of these were most important, why and what needs to take priority for the future.
- Involving lay people – to share vision, to listen in depth, to develop their leadership potential, to acknowledge their losses, can we even talk without them?
- Is there a faith crises here?
- The need for a clear long term plan.
- Setting priorities.
We grouped together in pastoral area groups and these points emerged in relation to each of those 4 key priority areas:
Lay People Group
Has the idea landed?
Was the quality of the listeningto lay peoplesufficiently good?
Energy from the ground is needed.
Should we really be meeting on our ownto plan without the presence of lay people?
“Never about me without me” a quotation from the disability sector.
We need to adapt to the cultural connection – for the occasional Church we have become for many people.
Strong image of Bees building in loosening masonry.
Vision to deepen our connection with those who have an appetite for that.
Is a Faith Crises Generating this?
Failure of Proclamation of the Gospel of hopeby the Church.
Coping with the shift to the occasional approach.
What is the fruit of our sacramental efforts?
Long term Plan
Eucharist central to our existence.
Openness to change.
Need to be creative.
Openness of Rome toallow forlocal needs.
Who will be future ministers of the Eucharist?
Importance of the local.
Variety of pastoral priorities in different areas.
Routine priorities at local level.
Guidelines need to be assimilated and digested.
Priorities & supports in local units
Facilitated meetings with lay peopleneeded at local level.
Gathering pastoral area councils.
Assistance from Pastoral development teamappreciated.
Broadening out involvement.
Facilitation & analysis of statistics & facts & reality.
On-going Geographical location analysisof pastoral areas.
Not giving up – start with one thing at a time.
Cluster co-ordinating Groupas atarget.
Focus on Sacramental Preparation.
Effective communication to address resistance.
Establishment of deeper Christian Communities.
Holding on to what is local within the team structure.
Focus on pastoral availability to school.
Getting more lay people involved.
Bringing this model into work in the Pastoral area
I would hope that we would bring themodel of working that we have lived for the past few days, this discursive, sharing, synodal, consultative model to our way of working in our pastoral areas.
I would encourage you to continue to do this.
Well done in your genuine efforts with this-so far!
Keep up the excellent work!
You will have the Ongoing support of the Pastoral Development team, Ger and Maureenand Jean and myself where possible.
Any area that needs more assistance, we will keep under review as time goes on.
Remember John Burke… one small step at a time…
I would hope very much that this would become an annual gathering.
I think it is very good and important that we would gather regularly in a faith context as clergy. John Hughes emphasised that very much.
A gathering just for Priests
The decision was made by the organising group that this particular gathering would be a time for us as priests on our own. We have gathered as a diocese a number of times with our lay people in the past months. 5 gatherings last Spring. 3 Gatherings for the lay Ministries recently. 5 Conversation evenings in the past month. We have three gathering planned in the coming month. Please God, there will be many more along that synodal model emphasised by Pope Francis and developed at the conversation evenings.
St. Flannan’s day
On the 18th of December we gather each year to celebrate St. Flannan’s day. It’s a lovely celebration of friendship and fraternity (that Michael Collins reflected on yesterday) and I would encourage as many as possible to attend. It’s always a lovely occasion courtesy of Joe McMahon, President of the College and Iggy McCormack, Principal of St. Flannans.
In January and June we have our diocesan retreats. Both retreats last year were very well attended. I would encourage as many as possible to engage either in Knock or Esker.
On spy Wednesday we celebrate the Chrism Mass. It is one of the most meaningful faith gathering for us as priests and lay people as we celebrate the Eucharist and the birthday of priesthood. We gather as a presbyterate and celebrate that fraternity and friendship and discipleship that we have been celebrating over the past days.
Individual Meetings with Priests
I very much look forward to meeting each of you individually for the 3rd time gain in December 2018, January, February of 2019 and look forward to that very much. I find those one-to-one meetings very worth-while and personal and useful, despite the major investment of time involved and I look forward to them very much.
I look forward also to being with you in the pastoral areas at the various functions, weekend Masses, occasions, Confirmations in the near future. I will do my best at such occcasions to emphasise and encourgage the team work system we have embarked upon in the diocese.
Priests from India
I welcome again the presence of our brothers from Kerala. You have been a significant addition to our group over the past year and very much during these days. We have much work to do to ensure that you are looked after, that you are integrating as effectively as possible into the diocese. Thanks to Fr. John Molloy who has been assisting you in this process. I am so happy that you will have the opportunity to attend 4 three days sesssions of an orientation course in Kimmage Manner in February and March of 2019. We are delighted to have you and every blessing to you all, Francis Xavier, Rexon, Joy and Antony.
Every blessing and good wish also to Lancelot McGrath. Likewise it has been a blessing to have you in our midst these days and wish you every success in Clarecastle and the Abbey Pastoral Area for the coming two months.
Thanks at the End
Eamonn and Judith – facilitate.
We have got to know Eamonn well from last year. Eamonn has been with us now for so many meetings and gatherings. He knows our faults and failings, our weaknesses and strengths and knows how to get the best out of us and he has one more time done that over the past few days. Every good wish to you Eamonn as yourself and Judith embark on the Limerick in-service over the coming days. Wednesday, Thurday and Friday.
Judith we are so delighted you have joined us this year. We all saw from the very first session when you were facilitating the ground rules the way you could rapidly collate and group the ground rules into similar qualities – the way you can think on your feet and respond incisively to what is being said overtly and reading between the lines when necessary. Thanks Judith for your wondeful work with us and all the best with your work on the fascinating area of the the epxpression of the body as a means of prayer in the pilgrimage of Lough Derg and the Camino de Santiago de Compostela.
Pastoral Development Team
Maureen work on Liturgy. Meaningful morning and evening and night prayers. Themes for litugies.
Appropriate liturgical music and reflections.
General wisdom and advice.
Huge work on detail. Liaising with the hotel. Rooms, bookings, meals, sound systems, finance. Huge workand preparation.
All who did prayers of the faithful, readings, celebrants.
Front of Houseand welcome– GerNashand Ger Jones
Ongoing formation Committee:
Series of Meeting from late Spring, through the Summer and into the Autumn.
Tom O’Halloran, Maureen Kelly, Albert McDonnell, Des Hillery, Ger Nash, Damien Nolan, Eamonn, Judith
Anthony McMahon in his absence…
Bishop Drennan Story – August 2016
2 brothers – how to get through the Winter. Decided to chop wood. One brother was amazed at the other who was getting through much more – piles high with less work and more frequent breaks. Why? When I rest, I sharpen my axe… Quiet time, prayer can be more incisive and powerful to spring us into fruitful action.
I would hope that in trying to put flesh on the theme of being Together for Mission has benefitted from our time of sharpening the axes here over the past few days. Thanks to you all. Safe home agus go mbeire muid beo an t-am seo arís.