There was a short item on ‘This week’ at lunchtime last Sunday which was entitled “Is Sunday Mass becoming a thing of the past?” Two Bishops were interviewed, Fintan Gavin, Cork and Francis Duffy, Tuam and they both had interesting things to say. Maybe you heard it and wondered what had stimulated this conversation and the answer is of course, the Synodal Process, reforms in most diocese and the perceived shortage of priests. Bishop Fintan is reorganising his diocese into ‘families of parishes’ with whatever priests he has available assigned to the grouping, breaking the link between the priest living and serving the one community to a new model of ministry for the priests and a new reality for the parishioners. Bishop Duffy asked people to look around at their neighbours and ask yourselves “who among your neighbours will continue to be the new leaders and carry on the pastoral work in your parish alongside a much smaller number of clergy? Who among them will lead prayer services and keep the faith alive and active through catechesis and other initiatives?” All of this rings true with our experience here in Clonskeagh, Mount Merrion and Kilmacud. One parish has no resident priest, Fr Donie and I are both assigned to the group of three parishes and while we still have 5 priests to celebrate the sacraments the trend is clear.
We have just come through the Synodal Process, the first Building Hope meeting and many people have generously gathered and shared their hope and joys and reflected on this current reality. None of our three parishes currently has an active Parish Pastoral Council. The Building Hope process began with a month of prayer, and this is probably a good model for us all in these three parishes. We must now pray actively for the Holy Spirit to guide us, to awaken in our hearts a new love for our church and a renewed willingness to serve in some capacity in the parish. We will have to arrange some more opportunities to gather, to listen to each other and to discern the best way forward. If something comes to you in prayer and you might like to send it to me by letter, email or come and chat. Talk to each other, listen to the experiences that others are having, such as in Cork and Tuam, and believe that the Lord is always with us and we will find a new road and walk it together. Addressing this need is now our common task, and all have a role to play. As the scripture suggests we have to be ready for action, have our lamps lit and our hearts set on the kingdom of God.