On Holy Thursday Archbishop Farrell distributed a Pastoral Letter to share his thoughts with us on the ‘Building Hope’ process that he started shortly after coming to Dublin. The first step was a consultation that many parishioners here participated in through the online survey. Thousands of people all over the diocese, of every age and opinion contributed to the information. Contained in the Task force report.
We are now moving to the implementation stage of the recommendations which came from the Report. In the Pastoral Letter we read “It is very clear the future will not look like the past. Our world has changed; we cannot return to the past.” We are proud to have huge parishes, great and spacious churches, wonderful schools and up to date parish centres. We also have many people active in the liturgy and ministries, in parish leadership, through Parish Pastoral Councils and Parish Finance Committees, schools BOM and paid employment. Our clergy, and the religious around us have many years of service behind them and the age profile is certainly tending towards the senior years. Some of these things are the legacy of a different time, some show the commitment of people today.
The Archbishop is a man who likes to get people talking, listening and acting together. In the diocese we have already had a number of years of parishes working together for mission. In our grouping, and under my care, the three parishes of Kilmacud, Mount Merrion and Clonskeagh have been managing pretty well to maintain parish life, liturgy and outreach, even in Covid times. But the question is: Where are we going? Who will take on the challenge of local leadership in the parish?
The next stage in the journey is to take more specific steps towards meeting and creating a dialogue between the three parishes. Up until now it was been chiefly the priests who have been moving between the parishes, keeping 108 masses a month going and relating to the parish staff, volunteers and people. But the future will need to connect people in these three parishes more actively. There are many areas that we can talk about, Masses and Sacraments, Schools and young people, use of resources and personnel, funding the future and revising our priorities, to name a few.
The Archbishop and his staff have provided materials and offered a road map. All of this can be found on the Diocesan Website, which has a ‘Building Hope’ tab. We are obliged to set up a steering group drawn from the PPC and PFC and others. I would be delighted to hear from anyone who might like to be considered for this committee now or to be an animator of groups going forward, or who has other skills to share. I don’t expect this to be just a clergy-led initiative, we are here at the service of the people and with particular tasks to sustain the sacramental life of the parishes.
We can reactivate the service of senior parishioners with great experience of parish and church, and we can also appeal for a younger generation of parishioners to step forward into leadership. Those with children in school and college, with many years of family life to live here in the parish community must join with us and express how the local church can thrive in the future with your hands on the tiller, guiding all that we seek to do together. Without the vitality of youth, the insights of a new generation, their fervour for faith and commitment to practice that faith with the Christian Community, there is little point in restructuring.
The Archbishop says, and believes, “God is bringing forth something new” Isaiah 43:19, we want and need to play our part in giving life to this Godly work.