Bishop’s plan for parish groupings reviewed at Clogher ACP meeting
Clogher ACP Meeting 31st July 2013
Six priests attended our recent meeting along with Bishop Liam.
The main body of our meeting centred on Bishop Liam’s document on the new parish groupings. The Bishop offered his responses to all of the ‘questions and reservations’ that had been forwarded to him from our previous meeting. This resulted in many clarifications about the initiative. He emphasised that service was to be at the heart of the process rather than authority. The role of the facilitator in each grouping will be that of service, assisting in the working out of the new model, and clarification of this role will come as the new initiative begins to move forward.
The Diocesan Pastoral Support group will assist and support the facilitation of the process, and because everyone has a stake in this new initiative, it is in everyone’s interest to be actively involved. A key part of the dynamic will be the engagement of the laity as the idea moves forward.
Facilitators/co-ordinators will be named by the Bishop in September. Again service will be the key at all times. With regards the duration of their appointment, this can reviewed over time at Group level. A review at Diocesan level after a suitable period of time would be seen as a wise idea, and part of the learning process.
We are now at a stage where a new language and new concepts may need to be taken on board. With regards to concerns expressed about the role of curates and the influence of curates, all priests’ needs and views need to be heard and valued. For this to work, curates need to feel that they are in the process on an equal footing.
On the topic of whether seniority should continue as a key criterion in clerical appointments, Bishop Liam suggested that de facto seniority is no longer an absolute, but that it is still broadly accepted and so it does not seem wise to dispense with it altogether at this time.
Responding to the question that had been raised at our previous meeting about the criteria that had been used in projecting the figures for personnel in 2023, Bishop Liam clarified that he had made a loose calculation. Taking 65 as a retirement age, the meeting accepted the Bishop’s view that if that were adopted, the Diocese as it is presently structured would simply be unworkable. On the other hand, Bishop Liam accepted that it was important to be realistic about the impossible workload that would fall on ageing priests if new ways are not found to share pastoral and administrative responsibilities with the active involvement of the laity.
Bishop Liam repeated that the plan he has put forward is offered as a start. The directions are intentionally kept at a minimum to allow for flexibility in this new process, and the Bishop has absolutely no desire to control it tightly. The less rules and the less instructions the better.
The great challenge is to review our own mind-sets, not just change the outlook of others. This is a Diocesan initiative. It’s our house, it’s our Diocese, we must make it work, and while the pace will vary from group to group, we must begin the process including more involvement of laity.
Bishop Liam appealed to the generosity and mutual co-operation of all as together we work out a blueprint for the future.
Our next gathering of Clogher ACP takes place on Wednesday 9th October in Clones.
Those in attendance at the Clogher meeting were informed of an ACP open meeting for priests from all the Northern Dioceses in Ballygawley on the 25th September (details of time etc to follow); all Clogher members were encouraged to attend in support.
The 3rd AGM of the ACP will be held in Athlone on October 29th, again members were encouraged to attend.
A joint meeting of the ACP and ACI will take place in Dublin on the evening of Friday 15th November, the main speaker will be Robert Mickens, the Vatican correspondent of the Tablet.
Regarding Pastoral Reflection, Fr. Conall Ó Cuinn gave Clogher priests a great taster for this practice in the evening sharing sessions at this year’s Diocesan Retreat in Dromantine. We have invited him to join us for a gathering on this topic in the autumn.
With regards to Spiritual Directors who would be available to priests, Manresa are circulating an email to those on their data base of trained and active directors to source names of directors who would be available.