Clogher bishop attends ACP meeting
A meeting of Clogher ACP took place in Clones on the 19th September. Fifteen priests attended including our Bishop Liam. There was one apology.
Once again much of our meeting centred on questions around our identity, not just as Clogher ACP or as members of the ACP, but more critically our identity as Priests. We recognised the great crisis that Priesthood is going through today, and we acknowledged the definite need for greater clarity on our role as Priest in today’s society, otherwise we are going down a confusing road.
As Clogher ACP we wondered who we are and who we represent. Yet we are developing our own identity and any initiatives undertaken or reflections shared are offered to those who choose to attend and so we are not as such representative of all Priests within the Diocese. But the door of Clogher ACP is open to everyone as a group in which to discuss clergy concerns, clergy needs, that is our remit to date.
While Vatican II addressed who the People of God are and the Priesthood of the baptised, and also the role of bishops, there was a serious deficiency in its view of the Ministerial Priesthood. How much do we depend on the people’s perception of what we should be?
We know that if we are to be taken seriously as Priests, and if our message is to be taken seriously, we must begin to ask ourselves some fundamental questions like, what is this vocation, this lifestyle that we are promoting? What is it I believe in? Why do I believe? Who is God to us? “Who do people say that I am?” These questions should help us claim our identity, our sense of ministry, our foundational faith in Jesus Christ. Sadly as a body of men, we do not operate at this level of reflection, yet. And if we continue to be uncertain about our identity as Priests, how can we expect others to follow us in this vocation?
We also recognise that the days of using out-of-date, out-of-touch language to describe Priesthood are now at an end, ‘ontological change’ means very little in this emerging time of labour, and while we may not know what is going to be given birth to, we know that it has to be a Priesthood that is centred upon service and equality, and above all else it has to be built upon a listening to the ‘People of God’, if any new vision, any new identity is to emerge, for the days of ‘Father knowing best’ are now long gone.
While we know that God speaks though the scriptures, tradition and the magisterium, God also speaks through the people, but sadly effective structures are not there at national or diocesan level for this kind of conversation leading to collaborative ministry to take place.
While we do not want the standoff of Austria to become ours, we still recognise that some of the presumptions of the past 40/50 years cannot now be taken for granted. Anything that rules out conversation on issues like celibacy and a male-only Priesthood, we can no longer presume all this as we struggle for this new identity.
There was a widely shared view that, at diocesan level, we do not meet often enough or at all to discuss our mission, our business as priests. We sense our need to meet more often at a deeper level to help us find again who we are as ministers of God, because in an ever growing secular society, many of us have lost our confidence in what we need to say and what we now believe.
With regards Pastoral Supervision/Reflection groups, we felt that this particular type of forum could help bring us to greater clarity about our identity, and our role as priests. Our next gathering on Wednesday 28th November will be given over to information and steps towards establishing of these groups.
We decided again that as Clogher ACP our regular meeting would be on the last Wednesday of every second month.