Clogher group unhappy with ACP leadership and this website
Clogher ACP Meeting Report
A meeting was held on 30th January in Clones of Clogher ACP. Nine Priests attended including Bishop Liam, nine sent their apologies.
There was much discussion about Fr. Tony Flannery and where he finds himself today. While a lot of what has happened is coming to us through the media reports and the ACP website, there was an uneasiness expressed among a number of members, there was also a fear expressed that what has happened Fr. Tony has implications for us all, and while confusion as to what has exactly happened still exists, many felt saddened at what was perceived as ‘heavy-handedness’, surely our Church is big enough to find other means of resolving situations like this. Is this the only way, the best way of dealing with differing opinions, and where does all this now lead ‘me’, with my own conscience? Why has the bar being raised since September 2012 when the then Congregation Prefect accepted Fr. Tony’s creedal beliefs? Is this partly an attempt to suppress the ACP? If so, this should concern all members of the association.
In saying all that, members expressed their concern at the direction the ACP at national level seems to be taking as reported through the website. Much of the commentary and opinion offered on the website does not represent the views of its membership, at least judging from ourselves. One voice compared our association to a growing child, and suggested that at national level, the time had come for the ACP to grow up.
Because we communicate on line, because our only presence as an association is online through the website, personal contact, personal engagement with the members is at a deficit, wider engagement does not exist and our public image is formed by this alone. The Association, through its website’s presentation began very positively with many fine aims in its launch manifesto, but it has never really developed towards a real and deep and positive and meaningful uplifting discussion forum. There is now among members, at least in Clogher, less of an appetite to view the site for it is now viewed as not good for one’s morale, we are no longer comfortable with it, we wish it was different, and some are now having to admit that they are not sure if they can remain with it.
But as members of the association we also must hold our hands up (and in challenging ourselves, we challenge all members of the ACP) for we have to admit that we offer nothing to the website, we do not ask or send articles for publication, we have not responded to published commentary, so each of us, collectively and individually must take responsibility, we must therefore pick up our ‘mouse’ and play our own part in how the ACP grows and develops in the years ahead, because as priests we are in need of a national body to support us, to encourage us and to uplift us in our ministry today.
As Diocesan Priests, we must also raise the question with regards our association, whether there are issues with regards Religious and Diocesan Priests attempting to find a common vision of where we might go as ACP. Are there two different expectations existing? Are there two different life experiences existing? Are there two different views on Church and ethos existing? And are these differences proportionally or disproportionally represented within ACP?
It was decided to invite the ACP leadership to come and meet with the membership in Clogher so that these views might be discussed at a more immediate level and in the hope that together we might bring together a more common vision of what we are about. That invitation was issued since our meeting and will be taken up on the last day of our Forum on Wednesday 10th April. All Priests attending the Forum are invited to attend that gathering.
Because the above reflection and discussion had taken considerable times our main topic for discussion: ‘Looking towards 2023 at Priests in Clogher’ received very little attention, but it will warrant significant time at our meetings into the future. The stark reality was brought home to us when we were informed that at the moment we have 80 Priests within the Diocese, that there will be no Priest under 40 come May of this year; there are 14 Priests between the ages of 40-50, 18 between the ages of 50-60, 20 between 60-70, 16 between the ages of 70-80 and 12 Priests between the ages of 80-90.
We have 37 Parishes at the moment. Projecting to 2023, in ten years time, taking retirement age of 75, there will be 34 Priests for 37 Parishes, that would be reduced to 24 Priests for 37 Parishes if retirement was at 65.
These are the stark statistics. While structural changes are one aspect, personnel is the big issue; ministry will have to change radically and this will mean a considerable ask. More lay involvement will be required, voluntary and paid. There was some brief discussion about whether ordaining Deacons may also be part of the way to go, but there are many unanswered questions about this ministry as yet.
With regards the possibility of forming another Pastoral Reflection/Support Group, this idea will continue to be kept open to development, and the invitation to join will be made again at our upcoming forum.
With regards the setting up of a directory of Spiritual Directors, Counsellors, Psychotherapists and Supervisors as a means of self care, three members have taken responsibility to initiate that process, and when completed will be made available to all Priests within the Diocese.
Our next gathering will take place at our Forum on Wednesday 10th April from 2.00pm – 3.30pm.