Letter to the Irish Times by Brian Grogan S.J. (unpublished)
Now that the countdown to the International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) has begun, a related but worrying countdown must also be taken into account. The decline in priestly vocations means ever fewer celebrations of the Eucharist, and the current drive to cluster parishes and to rationalise Mass schedules will not serve us for long. Some senior citizens already find travel to a more distant parish beyond their strength. And if the Congress emerges as a positive event, more Irish Catholics will want to participate in the Eucharist, and must be enabled to do so. So what is the Spirit now trying to say to the Irish Church?
Next June will see an international gathering of bishops for the Congress, including, perhaps, the pope himself. As hosts, the Irish bishops are in a position to initiate a creative dialogue with their fellow-bishops on appropriate responses to the widespread pastoral need of providing celebrants. To Jesus’ request, ‘Do this in memory of me’ we can hardly convincingly respond, ‘Sorry, Lord; no celebrants!’
Open debate in the Church on this issue is long overdue. Someone, somewhere, must offer episcopal leadership in addressing it. And if not us, who? The best outcome to next year’s Congress would be to have progressed this matter: to do so would help the universal Church. Carpe diem!
While the issue of women’s ordination requires further study and discernment, immediate and less conflictual pastoral options merit attention. For example: some priests now married would still be glad to serve the People of God by celebrating Eucharist. Further, priesthood for married men can be considered, as witness the married Anglicans who have joined the ordinariate established by pope Benedict and celebrate with Catholic communities. Again, communion services, led by the non-ordained, could be fostered rather than viewed as an invasion of the clerical domain. The over-riding concern in preparing the Congress must be the future liturgical service of the People of God, leading to a revitalisation of the Irish Catholic Church, rather than the running of a once-off event, however successful, next June.
– Yours, etc
Brian Grogan SJ
35 Lr Leeson St