06Mar Historic meeting held in Redemptorist Monastery in Limerick

Friday 1st March 2013 was an historic night in Mount St. Alphonsus, Limerick. Fr. Adrian Egan, Rector, in welcoming those in attendance, referred to the historic nature of the evening as the first gathering of the Association of Catholics in Ireland [ACI] in Limerick was also the first lay meeting in the monastery since the completion of extensive refurbishments.

Approximately 50 people were in attendance. The local ‘Leadership Team’ opened the meeting and outlined the agenda for the evening.

Noel McCann spoke on behalf of the ACI Steering Group and outlined the background to the establishment of the association. He also described the ACI vision for the future of our church in the context of the ACI ‘Statement of Objectives’.

The Facilitator then presented the meeting with three questions which would be considered in groups of approximately 8 people:

· Describe the state of our church to-day.

· What model of church would you like to see in 5/10 years from now?

· How will our church get from where it is to-day to where you would like it to be in 5/10 years from now?

The following is a summary of the comments received during the ‘feedback’ session which followed the very vibrant group discussions on the three questions.

Question 1 [Describe the state of our church to-day].

Our church was variously describes as ‘being in a shambles’, ‘ in crisis’, ‘out of touch’, ‘dogmatic’, ‘authoritarian’, ‘hierarchical’, ‘lacking in leadership’. Other comments included ‘a church that does not listen’, ‘a church that is unable to respond to change’, ‘a church that has failed to involve the laity in a meaningful way’, ‘a church that is not relevant to the lives of many, especially young people’ , ‘a church that does not value women’.

There was strong support expressed for the church and the priests at local level and a significant gulf was identified between this local church and the institutional church. The good that is being done by church people and church organisations is not being adequately highlighted in these challenging times for the church.

The wording of the new missal was criticised for the awkward language which is not conducive to active and meaningful participation by the laity.

The question was posed ‘if Jesus returned would he recognise the church of to-day’?

Question 2 [What model of church would you like to see in 5/10 years from now?]

The desired model of church is one which is ‘inclusive’, ‘collegial with strong grass-roots’, ‘less hierarchical’, ‘where there is a place for the lay faithful at the top-table’, ‘which welcomes the marginalised’, ‘which has a tolerance for expressions of difference’, ‘where women’s voices are heard’, ‘where at least discussion on the ordination of women is tolerated’. People desired strong and dynamic ‘faith communities’ rather than the current, very static style of church. Make the gospels and the eucharist central to our local faith communities as was the practice amongst the early Christian communities.

Question 3 [How will our church get from where it is to-day to where you would like it to be in 5/10 years from now?]

The reality is that we must start from where we are – with all its problems. Openness is essential – the church authorities must disclose the ‘full truth’ behind all the scandals and problems before we can start to move forward in a positive way towards church renewal. The essential discussions on the issues at the heart of the decline of the church should begin immediately. The lay faithful ‘are the church’ and must be included in meaningful dialogue with the bishops on the future of our church. Church governance must, from now on, be based on the principle of ‘service rather than control and power’. The local church must be run on the basis of ‘co-responsibility’. We need to build strong faith communities based around the scripture. The current process used in the identification of candidates for appointment as bishops should be revised and include an input from the lay faithful.

The talents of individuals should be used more in support of the church – irrespective of gender. The question was posed ‘why can’t the church appoint some women as cardinals in recognition of the role and importance of women in our church communities’?

The shortage of priests should be addressed by examining the option of re-admitting married priests who have left the church over the years. The church has facilitated married Anglican clergy through the creation of the Ordinariate. Priestly celibacy should be optional.

There was criticism of the imperial and monarchical symbolism of the ‘regalia’ worn by the Pope, Cardinals and Bishops.

New technologies offer huge potential for embracing innovative ways of ‘spreading the good news’.

Fr. Tony Flannery: During informal discussions before and after the meeting, as well as during the meeting itself, very strong support was expressed for Fr. Tony Flannery who served for many years in Mount St. Alphonsus.

The meeting concluded with a decision to meet again on the 1st May at the same venue to continue the discussion.

The ACI Steering Group would like to thank all who attended on the night and contributed to such a vibrant debate. A special thanks to Fr. Adrian Egan for providing the superb facilities at St. Alphonsus. Congratulations and thanks to the local ‘Leadership Team’ for the very efficient organisation of this meeting. The ‘foundations have been laid’ for a very strong ACI Group in Limerick.

The Steering Group would appeal to all those interested in the ACI initiative to follow the example of those who have already organised meetings around the country and call a meeting in your own area. The Steering Group is available to assist and advise on preparing for and organising such meetings. There is now a fairly simple template emerging for these meetings which significantly reduces the workload involved.

8 Responses

  1. Eddie Finnegan

    You can say that again!

  2. Darlene Starrs

    The template the ACI is using is very effective for soliciting the people’s thoughts, feelings, and opinions. Will there be a report or a book that summarizes the material gleaned from meetings around Ireland?

    How many ACI meetings have been conducted in Ireland to date?

    Is there a follow-up between meetings? or a particular task between meetings?

  3. Phil McGovern

    Now wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a Third Vatican Council called with the same questions posed for discussion with no interference from the Curia?

  4. mjt

    Worthy and exciting though news of this meeting is, I notice the report employs the reiterative technique, the one employed to soporific effect by priests in parishes all over the country Sunday after Sunday, saying in twenty minutes what could be said in three. But in this case it doesn`t take away from its interest…

  5. Nuala O'Driscoll

    Positive and constructive aspirations which I hope will come to fruition. However I think I will remain here, in the church outside the walls, where my ‘stale feminist opinions’ are not so out of place. Jesus would not know the Catholic Church or any Christian Church, he wasn’t a Catholic or a Christian, he lived and died trying to reform his own Jewish Tradition. There is an interesting article in the Irish Times today by Paddy Agnew, in which he reports that a US abuse victim’s lobby, named Archbishop Diarmuid Martin as a candidate for the Papacy, good choice.

  6. Teresa Mee

    ‘A Church that doesn’t value women’!!

    Do you really mean CHURCH??? If so, count me out because I value women.

    Teresa Mee

  7. ger gleeson

    I was privileged to be present at the ACI meeting in the Redemptorists Monastery Limerick on 1 March, and must thank Mr Noel McCann and the local committee for the excellent job they did in organising same. The issues were openly discussed and commented on, and the sadness for me was that none of the Hierarchy was present. If they were they would experience the heart and soul of the Church in action. Regardless of where ACI meetings are held, you will find like-minded people, whose sole purpose is to make our Church more relevant in people’s lives. I would say to the Hierarchy, look around any church on a Sunday, and you will find few people, going through the motions. At both ACI and ACP meetings they will find the engine of our Church. If there is any one of them who love the Church above Rome, then they must break their blind obedience to Rome, and come and join us. Is there not even ONE PRODIGAL SON AMONGST YOU?

  8. Con Devree

    Ger, I have been a prodigal son several times over but am not attracted to the ACI or the ACP. I have found that the Church makes sense. The Church and Rome are not opposite polarities.

    Christ is God. The Church is the people of God, and through being members of the Church Catholics have the opportunity to be united through and through with Christ – God. Since God is Truth, Catholics through this union therefore, have access to truth, and are expected to seek that truth. There is a perfect fit between this Truth and human reason. Since God is God, this pursuit of truth can only be done through what God has revealed of Himself through the Bible as interpreted by the Church through her teachings.

    Conscience is an intellectual activity/entity which relies on this truth to guide moral activity. Since a Catholic is expected/invited, but not forced (due to free will) to seek truth, he/she is expected to form his/her conscience in accordance with the teaching of the Church, and not through a reliance on merely rising to the level of one’s own or anyone else’s limited human competence, gifted relatively as that may be. If a person encounters difficulty in terms of acceptance, one, on the basis of the authority beyond himself he has accepted in Catholicism, is expected to trust in God – Truth itself, and decide as if they were “face to face” with God, as on judgement day. Given that life is lived in the context of the battle between good and evil, there is a constant propensity on the part of all Catholics to engage in “private conviction” personal whim, blind feeling, self interest or instinct. People decline to do things as God decrees (otherwise known as sin or scandals).

    In essence, God, through this process, invites Catholics to shape their life experience more to resemble His, which is one of perfect happiness and freedom, the hundredfold in this life and eternal life hereafter. Our thinking has, so to say, been given a hand and helped upward, beyond what it could achieve for itself.