ACP members in Achonry and Tuam meet
A group of almost 20 people from Achonry and Tuam dioceses met in Claremorris on Wednesday September 12th to discuss issues ahead of the Galway conference on October 6th. Members of parish councils, sisters and priests were among those in attendance.
The two-hour discussion gave voice to many issues and concerns. Fr Brendan Hoban opened proceedings and explained how the ACP came about, its function, hopes and desires. Details of the Galway conference were discussed with the discussion thrown open to the floor.
Concern was expressed about the practice of accused priests being publicly named by their Bishop and having to stand down without any proof of wrongdoing. The priesthood is the only profession where one is guilty until proven innocent.
Vatican II received much attention. What exactly are the documents some wondered, 50 years after proceedings opened in Rome? The dust needs to be removed from the Vat II documents and re-presented to the people of God.
Who let Vat II die, some asked? How do we claim back the spirit of Vat II? Vat II is about a collaborative church where everyone matters and everyone has a say and that ‘say’ is respected. We need to be re-educated and empowered by Vat II. We are all brothers and sisters, not one looking up to another on a pedestal. We share the same baptism. How do we respond? It is crucial that we work together.
Vatican 11 cannot be robbed from anyone in the church. It is there for everyone. The wisdom of Vat 11 is being denied to the people of God. Its proposed reforms have been sidelined.
The ACP is, essentially, about re-introducing the reforms of Vat 11 to today’s church. It is time to become a listening church.
Perhaps fear took over during the past 50 years rather than the openness promised by Vat 11. Whatever the reason, the reality today is that the reforms of VAT 11 are needed in our church. The ACP, along with supporters in the church, will voice that reality. That reform can only be governed by compassion, love and forgiveness – all are essential to our church.
Without the Holy Spirit the ACP will go nowhere. All our actions are governed by our faith. It is time to step up, speak out and give a voice to the workings of the Holy Spirit within us. The Holy Spirit is not confined to a one-way ticket down the corridors of the Vatican in Rome. If we believe that what we are saying and doing is right then the Holy Spirit will guide us.
We must name the truth as we see it. It is not being disloyal if we voice our concerns. The reality is that the church is collapsing and we need a revolution. The late Cardinal Martini said that the church is 200 years out of date.
First Confession and First Communion preparation in national schools is quickly forgotten. Many pupils returning after the holidays have not seen the inside of a church all summer! Where are the parents in all this? Grandparents are concerned over the extent of ‘passing on the faith’ as many feel grandchildren are not experiencing ‘church moments.’ The sacrament of reconciliation ‘is at zero.’
Some priests find it difficult to share power. Some bishops also! Reform is about letting go. All our interests are the same. We all – the church, ACP, Pope and the bishops – share the same Gospel message. Our interests are the same – bringing others and ourselves to new life in Christ. How we get there might be a little different…
There is a perception that the ACP is a group of dissidents. Most members are over 60! Some are chuffed with the ‘dissident’ tag! There was no dissident feeling at the Dublin conference in May just a great outpouring of PASSION. The ACP is just starting the debate on HOW change is to be implemented, nothing more. Many ACP members and supporters are to the forefront of church activities. People need to be energised as the PEOPLE OF GOD.
The ACP is central to a re-awakening of our church. It is giving a voice to the voiceless, offering support to the marginalized and an ear to those who feel that they are ‘a voice crying in the wilderness.’
Within the ACP there are differing views on different issues, but all agree on the Gospel message, love of church and the need to do something urgently. How wonderful it would be if the bishops who find a voice when they retire could only utter their words while standing at the episcopal coalface. They would be pleasantly surprised by the support from the people of God!
We need to be shrewd, wise, pragmatic and realistic when dealing with the media. Everybody has their own spin! The ACP needs to claim the authority that ‘we are at the centre of the church.’ We have to shape our message, be positive and be aware that some people are intent on sabotage.
We need to be active, vibrant, honest, patient, compassionate and kind. We are building a vibrant church, with the Holy Spirit as the architect! We need to reach out to people who do not support us, for whatever reason.
There are candles already burning in some parishes and deaneries. Louisburgh and Achill representatives highlighted the good work flowing from their meetings, all supported by their priests. This is energising people. ‘Better to light a candle than curse the darkness…’