In his homily today, at the Holy Thursday Chrism Mass at Saint Macartan's Cathedral, Monaghan, Bishop Liam MacDaid invited parishes to work together in shaping the future. He told them: "Some years down the road the question will no longer be whether we have a local priest but whether we have active Christian communities witnessing to and passing on the message of Jesus."
Bishop Liam MacDaid invited the priests and lay people of the Diocese of Clogher to look outside the traditional understanding of parish in order to put in place the formation, and structure, required to enable parishes to be places of connectedness and collaboration into the future. His challenge to priests and people of the fourteen 'Pastoral Areas' (parish groupings) of the diocese is to actively engage together in a process of discernment "to consider the best ways to support the life and structure of the local Church in moving forward."
Speaking at the Holy Thursday Chrism Mass in Saint Macartan's Cathedral, Bishop MacDaid asked priests and parishioners to respond to the needs of the local Church in the face of change so as to create a situation "where parishes can be places where ministries complement and support each other: the priest carrying out his priestly ministry; and laity carrying out their parish ministry in such a way that the priest is free to be the priest."
Bishop MacDaid was commenting following the delivery of a powerful testimony at today's Mass by two lay people, each representing the northern and southern sides of the diocese, in response to his call on Holy Thursday last year for priests and people to consider the new realities of Church in Ireland today, so as to sustain itself and grow.
Since then a number of lay people and priests have been engaged in discerning a response. Bishop MacDaid said that the contribution of the laity was very uplifting.
"I know it was most encouraging for our priests to know that lay people are both willing and anxious to continue and to expand the tradition of involvement in the service of the community of believers. It was obvious from the response that much thought has already been given to the implications of the new circumstances in which we find ourselves and how important both formation and structure will be as we move to a new level of collaboration in decision making and action," he said.
The diocese has also recently completed a comprehensive consultation process in advance of the forthcoming Synod on the Family which will be held in the Vatican in October. Bishop MacDaid complimented all those who took part and assured people that the outcomes would be taken into account in planning for the future of the diocese. "The findings also point us to challenges in our parishes and the constant need for us all to proclaim the Gospel with joy, love and compassion; to reach out and engage with those who see themselves as being on the margins. All of this will provide us with much to reflect and act on, even at diocesan and parish level."
Bishop Liam MacDaid is Bishop of Clogher. The Diocese of Clogher covers all of County Monaghan, most of County Fermanagh and portions of counties Tyrone, Donegal, Louth and Cavan. It stretches from Bundoran on the Atlantic coast to within miles of the Irish Sea near Dundalk. Since October 2013 there have been fourteen 'Pastoral Areas' covering the 37 parishes of the diocese. These are to provide support to parishes to work together and to be active communities in themselves. The initiative is supported at diocesan level by an eight member Pastoral Support Group made up of six lay people and two priests, drawn from various parts of the diocese.
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