A Team unfolds…
On Tuesday, 2nd of February, the newly formed Pastoral Leadership Team met via “Zoom.” The group is made up of nine lay people, three priests and myself. For our first meeting I set the scene for the group as follows…
I was parish priest in Newbridge for five years, before that I served in other parishes in Co. Kildare and worked in the areas of youth, vocations, and local media. Then, one day, out of the blue, I was appointed Bishop of Achonry. For me it is a very different role, in a different diocese, in a different part of the country. It is a role that has many challenges and there is no blueprint with clear answers. I am very aware that I need help, advice, and guidance in my role as shepherd of the diocese. With this in mind, I went about forming a group of people so that we can work together to reflect upon the challenges that face us as a diocese today and see how we might meet those challenges.
Over the years I worked with people in parish life, I now felt I had a great opportunity to develop this in my ministry as bishop. Pope Benedict while talking to a group of pastoral leaders a number of years ago said that people were “co-responsible” for the life of the Church. This was a very significant statement. Over the years the responsibility for the leadership of the Church tended to be left to the priests and bishops. Pope Benedict was saying that all baptised Catholics are equally responsible for the life of the Church. Pope Francis emphasises “synodality” in the Church. This unusual word literally means a “journeying together” or “walking together,” discerning where the Spirit may be calling us.
From this I see the Pastoral Leadership Team as a group of people, priests, and bishop “walking together” trying to discern and reflect on where the Spirit is calling us in the diocese at this time and how we can respond to that call? The Team is made up of people from around the diocese. They were recommended by priests. They do not perceive themselves as being experts! However, each one has rich life and parish experience and are committed to their faith. I thank each one for the generosity in giving of their time and energy to this initiative.
The Journey from here…
We are fortunate to have Fr. Eugene Duffy as a resource in the diocese. Fr. Eugene is from Ballaghaderreen and lectures in theology in Mary Immaculate College in Limerick. Over the next couple of months, Fr. Eugene will be sharing his expertise with the group on various topics that are essential to ministry. These include: How God speaks to us and how we respond, the mission of Jesus, the mission of the Church, roles and ministries in the life of the Church. After these sessions we will then begin to reflect in a deeper way on the next steps. It is important to emphasise that this is not in any way a “closed” group! We will be communicating with the people and priests of the diocese. Communication is a two-way process, so people can always get in touch with their reflections and ideas at any time.
As we take these initial steps, I ask you to pray for this initiative. We are setting out on a journey, not too sure where the destination is! We trust in the Lord as we “walk together” knowing that his love and light will guide us along the path he wishes us to follow.
With warm wishes and every blessing,
Bishop of Achonry.