News archive 2006

Bishop of Elphin, Dr Christopher Jones outlines challenges for the Diocese of Elphin at the Parish Development & Renewal Gathering Shannon Key West Hotel, Roosky, Co. Roscommon on Saturday 7th October 2006

PRESS RELEASE

7 OCTOBER 2006

BISHOP OF ELPHIN, DR CHRISTOPHER JONES

OUTLINES CHALLENGES FOR THE DIOCESE OF ELPHIN

AT THE PARISH DEVELOPMENT AND RENEWAL GATHERING

SHANNON KEY WEST HOTEL, ROOSKY, CO ROSCOMMON

 
– Child Protection Policy launched and listed as top priority in parishes
– Quality of celebration rather than quantity of Masses needs to be our vision
for the future
– Need for ongoing adult faith formation highlighted
– Local Media thanked and encouraged
 
The sixth annual Parish Development and Renewal Gathering in the Diocese of
Elphin takes place on Saturday 7th October 2007 in the Shannon Key West Hotel,
Roosky, Co Roscommon.

The Bishop of Elphin, Dr Christopher Jones delivered a keynote address to the
gathering entitled ‘Advancing in Christ’. In his address Bishop Jones outlined
the key challenges the diocese is facing – Child Protection, The Sunday Mass
and on-going Adult Faith Formation.

Speaking about child protection Bishop Jones said: “Child Protection has been
a pastoral priority with the Irish bishops for a number of years and last December
marked a particular and welcome milestone with the publication of Our Children,
Our Church – Policies and Procedures for the Catholic Church in Ireland. Drawn
up with the assistance of many recognised experts, and fully in keeping with national
policy in this area – the Department of Health and Children’s Children First (1999),
this documents sets out how the Church is furthering best practice and responding
to emerging concerns.  

“It is also my great privilege to officially launch our diocesan child protection
policy here today and I take this opportunity to thank our Diocesan Child Protection
Committee for overseeing the consultation processes that led to its current form
and content.  I pray that it will prove a stepping stone to ensuring the joy of every
child who gets involved in Church ministries and activities.”

Speaking about the Sunday Mass Bishop Jones said: “Good liturgy builds up faith.  
Poor liturgy weakens faith. The Mass is the source of our Faith, the source of our
Mission and the source of our strength. Celebrating together carries us up into
the heart and the mystery of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  It is the means
by which our communities become part of The Community of the Blessed Trinity.

“Today, our primary concern needs to be how well we participate in the celebration
of the Eucharist and how we can contribute as a faith community to enhance and enrich
our experience of the Eucharist. Good liturgy requires careful planning and preparation.
We need more people to become increasingly involved in such planning and preparation.
Quality of celebration rather than quantity of Masses needs to be our vision for
the future.

In light of this and other considerations I have invited every parish to revise
its Mass schedule in conjunction with neighbouring parishes.”

The third challenge identified by Bishop Jones was the need for ongoing adult faith
formation. Bishop Jones said: “Today  I encourage each of you to ponder your own
faith journey – the ups and downs, the highs and lows, the pain and the joy, the
excesses and the needs.  Ponder too the formative influences that have blessed your
life and ask yourself are you now a formative influence … something we are all called
to be.”

Bishop Jones also questioned how committed Catholics are supporting others to come
to know their true selves, to know God, to discover what the Church is all about
(much more than Sunday Mass), what faith is all about and what the sacraments are
all about.
 
He said: “I am not suggesting a huge change in lifestyle for any person.  Rather my
prayer is that every committed Catholic will compliment their prayer life and
participation in the Eucharist with a little time for growing in their understanding
of our faith, our God, our Church and our calling as adult Christians today”.  

Editors and managers of local radio stations and newspapers were invited to the
gathering and Bishop Jones availed of the opportunity to publicly express the
local Church’s appreciation of the great work of the local media. Bishop Jones
said: “I am delighted to have this opportunity to compliment our local media on
the great service they provide and to acknowledge all the good they do.  I am
thinking here of their provision of news and commentary; their support for many
charity and voluntary initiatives; their contribution to the sporting and cultural
life of parishes; their commitment to local people, organisations and local events;
and their coverage of events and happenings that have a faith and religious
dimension.”  

The Bishop also reminded delegates and media personnel that Catholic Social Teaching
strongly encourages all Christians to engage with the media and to support media
personnel to animate their work “with a humane and Christian spirit” and, in the
words of the late Pope John Paul II, to “tap their enormous positive potential
for promoting sound human and family values and thus contribute further to the
renewal of society”.  
 
THE FULL TEXT OF BISHOP JONES’ KEYNOTE ADDRESS AND THE TEXT OF HIS
ADDRESS IN RELATION TO LOCAL MEDIA FOLLOWS:

Advancing In Christ
Keynote Address of Bishop Christopher Jones at
Elphin Diocesan Parish Development and Renewal Gathering
Shannon Key West Hotel, Roosky, Co. Roscommon
Saturday 7th October 2006

INTRODUCTION
Bishop Clarke, Fr. Seamus, Distinquished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, brother
priests, sisters, thank you for participating in this gathering.  I am deeply
conscious that I am among people who exercise an array of ministries, people who
give much of themselves to family and community, to Church and to State.

CURRENT CHALLENGES
This afternoon I wish to speak about three challenges we are facing as a diocese:
the Sunday Mass; Child Protection and On-going Adult Faith Formation.  

THE SUNDAY MASS
The first area I wish to focus on is our experience of gathering together to
celebrate Mass.  Is there joy when we gather?  Do our gatherings give us joy –
priests and people?  

You are all aware, I know, of the declining number of priests serving our parishes.  
This has already and will impact further on the availability of Masses, both on
Sundays and weekdays.  That is inevitable.  I am concerned however, with another
dimension.  Some years ago the American Bishops produced a document in which they
stated “Good liturgy builds up faith. Poor liturgy weakens faith.”  Let me repeat
that  “Good liturgy builds up faith.  Poor liturgy weakens faith”.

Jesus’ intent in giving us Himself through the Eucharist includes His will that we
draw life from Him, that Mass be life-giving and nourishing for each of us.  The Mass
is the source of our Faith, the source of our Mission and the source of our strength.
Celebrating together carries us up into the heart and the mystery of God as Father,
Son and Holy Spirit.  It is the means by which our communities become part of The
Community of the Blessed Trinity.

Today, our primary concern needs to be how well we participate in the celebration
of the Eucharist and how we can contribute as a faith community to enhance and enrich
our experience of the Eucharist. Good liturgy requires careful planning and preparation.
We need more people to become increasingly involved in such planning and preparation.  
Quality of celebration rather than quantity of Masses needs to be our vision for the
future.

In light of this and other considerations I have invited every parish to revise its
Mass schedule in conjunction with neighbouring parishes and in keeping with the
following principles:

– that Mass times be arranged so that it will be possible for priests in
neighbouring parishes to preside at these Masses when the priest resident
in the community is away

– that parishes with more than one priest will be able to meet their commitments
when one priest is away

– that no priest is celebrating two vigil Masses as his normal commitment

– that no priest is celebrating three Sunday Masses as his normal commitment

– that no priest is celebrating two weekday Masses as his normal commitment

that the starting times of Sunday Masses in every parish be at least one and a
half hours apart

– that during Holy Week a priest would only celebrate one liturgy per day.
 
Throughout the diocese we have been excellent at preparing for the special occasion,
the key times of the Church’s year, such as Christmas and Easter, Weddings, First
Communion and Confirmation.  I earnestly pray that we will now collectively advance
to make every celebration of Sunday Mass a more communal and worthy act of worship,
an occasion when the faith and love of all present is nourished and confirmed.  

I am conscious too that the generosity of spirit is there in many communities to
take up this challenge.  What is now required is leadership, co-ordination and know-
how…. This is not just the priest’s responsibility.  It is first and foremost a
community responsibility that dioceses must support communities to take up.  I am
hopeful we will address this with parish leadership over the coming three years.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all who already contribute to
our worship of God on Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings, altar servers and the
parents and guardians who encourage their participation, Ministers of the Word
(Readers), Special Ministers of the Eucharist, Ushers, Choir members, leaders
and Musicians, collectors, members of Altar societies and especially our priests.  
Breaking open God’s word, sharing the richness of Christ’s sharing with us through
homilies is no easy task and the challenge of touching the hearts of people from
nine to ninety requires much prayer and reflection. I thank our priests for
prioritizing the Sunday homily and I thank all who free them to concentrate on
such work by taking up other ministries in their parish / Church community –
both professional and voluntary.  

CHILD PROTECTION
The second issue I wish to speak about is child protection.  

This has been a pastoral priority with the Irish bishops for a number of years
and last December marked a particular and welcome milestone with the publication
of Our Children, Our Church – Policies and Procedures for the Catholic Church in
Ireland. Drawn up with the assistance of many recognised experts, and fully in
keeping with national policy in this area – the Department of Health and Children’s
Children First (1999),-  this documents sets out how the Church is furthering best
practice and responding to emerging concerns.  

Simultaneously we have been building on the recommendations of the Irish Bishops
Child Protection Office.  Last year I established two advisory committees – our
diocesan Child Protection Committee and our diocesan Case Management Committee
and asked two people, Fr. Eamonn O’Connor and Mrs Yvonne Cronin to take up a
Child Protection Training Course that would qualify them as Child Protection
Trainers for our parishes.  Since then there have been great developments:

– Fr. Eamonn and Yvonne have completed their studies;
– A diocesan consultation process concerning a diocesan child protection policy
statement has taken place;
– Over 500 adults presented at introductory deanery meetings last May and June.
– Thirty two of our thirty-eight parishes have already signed up to diocesan
policy, another two are working on their own policy statements and I anticipate
a report from the remaining four over the coming days
– We asked parishes, through those who came along to the deanery meetings to
nominate at least one person for ministry as a Parish Child Protection Representative.  
So far thirty-two parishes have nominated eighty people for training.  This is to
take place before Christmas
– Local print media have been superb printing a series of articles on our Child
Protection efforts and at least one radio station has interviewed diocesan personnel
on this subject
– The diocese is gathering information to support a training initiative in 2007
that will advance best practice in parishes
– Work is also underway on a colour leaflet that will introduce our Child
Protection efforts, policies and procedures to every Catholic home in the diocese.
 
It is also my great privilege to officially launch our diocesan child protection
policy here today and I take this opportunity to thank our Diocesan Child Protection
Committee for overseeing the consultation processes that led to its current form
and content.  I pray that it will prove a stepping stone to ensuring the joy of
every child who gets involved in Church ministries and activities.

ON-GOING ADULT FAITH FORMATION  
The final item I wish to comment upon is personal commitment to on-going adult
faith formation.  Today  I encourage each of you to ponder your own faith journey
– the ups and downs, the highs and lows, the pain and the joy, the excesses and
the needs.  Ponder too the formative influences that have blessed your life and
ask yourself are you now a formative influence … something we are all called to
be.  

Earlier this year in Knock I spoke of the great need there is today to support
people take time to discover:

– who they are
– who God is
– what we are called to be
– to rediscover or even discover what the Church is all about
– what faith is all about
– what the sacraments are all about.
 
In today’s world it is vital that each of us prioritises this aspect of our lives.  
For some of us this might mean taking time to discover what opportunities exist.  
I’m thinking particularly of opportunities such as Alpha, Life in the Spirit
seminars, days of recollection in Mullaghmore and Galilee, opportunities offered
by our Family Life Centres and Pastoral Development Office.  I hope too that more
adults will consider taking up diplomas and degrees in theology.  Interestingly,
there are more people studying theology today in Ireland than ever before,
predominantly lay people.  In fact yesterday I had the privilege of participating
in St. Angela’s graduation ceremony where twenty-three adults graduated with diplomas
in theology.  

I suspect too that the Lord is eager that every Apostolic organisation develop
a programme of on-going formation for its membership and it is vital that bodies
such as Pastoral Council meetings be forums of learning as well as forums that
discern how parishes can best respond to prevailing pastoral challenges.  Some
of us too have entered a more reflective time of life, and this is a blessing
in itself.  We must not fail, however, to encourage younger adults to take up
the mantle of engagement and leadership – not only in the life of the Church,
but in local politics, business, sporting and cultural life.     
 
I am not suggesting a huge change in lifestyle for any person.  Rather my prayer
is that each of us will compliment our prayer lives and participation in the
Eucharist with a little time for growing in our understanding of our faith,
our God, our Church and our calling as adult Christians today.   

I would also like to thank Fr. Seamus O’Connell for the nourishment and insight
we have received here today.

CONCLUSION
Ladies and gentlemen, a diocese, like a nation, is ultimately shaped by what
people honour, cherish and worship, by what they deem to be true and good.  
That is its rock.
 
As your Bishop I have become conscious that today we risk trying to have the
fruit without looking after the roots.  For this realisation to permeate parishes
calls for further exploration at parish level and a structure to accommodate and
facilitate such dialogue.  
Personally I believe that Parish Pastoral Councils have a role here but there
is also lots of room for others to exercise the necessary service of leadership,
including our local media.  In fact my prayer is that we will grow in confidence
and face impending challenges together.  Indeed I look forward to witnessing some
of the resourcefulness and resolve characteristic of so many other endeavours in
parishes.

But most of all, and may we never forget, we are God’s children, created for joy
and that the Holy Spirit is always present and active.  

Delegates and visitors you have a long history of  honouring and cherishing what
is true, what is good and what is important. Keep up the good work.

Thank you very much.

+ Christopher Jones
Bishop of Elphin

Address of Bishop Christopher Jones to media present at
Elphin Diocesan Parish Development & Renewal Gathering
Shannon Key West Hotel, Roosky, Co. Roscommon
Saturday 7th October 2006

AFFIRMATION OF LOCAL MEDIA
Some of you will be aware that I invited representatives of our local media to
join us here today for lunch.  I suspect too there may be some who are wondering
if there is an underlying agenda.  Well, yes there is.  I have long admired the
contribution the twelve local papers and three radio stations make to community
life and I am delighted to have this opportunity to publicly compliment them on
the great service they provide and to acknowledge all the good they do – frequently
under the pressure of tight deadlines.  

I am thinking here of their provision of news and commentary; their support for
many charity and voluntary initiatives; their contribution to the sporting and
cultural life of parishes; their commitment to local people, organisations and
local events; and their coverage of events and happenings that have a faith and
religious dimension.  Like many others I get joy from the manner our local media
recognise and affirm the various contributions people and special events make to
community life and well-being, and from their celebration of achievements in every
sector.  I am grateful too for the companionship and sense of connection they offer
people who are housebound through age or infirmity and people who experience
loneliness and I suspect we all delight in the various humorous pieces that lift
our hearts and lead to laughter.  

Some of you will also be aware that Catholic Social Teaching strongly encourages
us as Christians to engage with the media.  As early as 1963 Pope Paul VI promulgated
the highly prophetic Decree on the Media of Social Communication of the Second
Vatican Ecumenical Council.  This document strongly encourages all of us to support
media personnel to animate their work “with a humane and Christian spirit” (Inter
Mirifica #3).

More recently in 2004 our late Pope John Paul II expounded on this idea and called
on all of us to support the media  “tap their enormous positive potential for
promoting sound human and family values and thus contribute further to the renewal
of society” (Message for the 2004 World Communications Day, No. 6).  

He was keenly aware that the media permit our manifestation as Church, as People
of God, and of the crucial role they play in nourishing mutual awareness and
cooperation between people of goodwill.  

I would also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the freedom of the press
and to convey my sense that there is room too for all of us, in a spirit of mutual
respect and enquiry, to take issue with one another on occasion, to dialogue openly
and transparently and to debate issues that concern the people we serve and care for.  
In fact I see a great need today for the advancement of such a participative forum,
a participative forum that pursues openness to truth and justice and that seeks
energy and insight from the Word of God.  Indeed I know many local media personnel,
like lay people in all other sectors, are spurred on by their faith and commitment
to truth.  This is evident not only in the facts they report but also in their
acknowledgement of the truth about human kind, the dignity of every human person
in all his or her dimensions.  Today I invite you to join me in encouraging our
local press to continue in this vein and to continue to foster solidarity and
understanding.  My prayer is that they will continually experience the Holy
Spirit’s encouragement as you do so.

Thank you.
+ Christopher Jones
Bishop of Elphin
 
NOTES TO EDITORS:
– Photographs from the gathering:  
Please contact Christy and Mary Regan NUJ
Photographers, Green St., Boyle.  Tel:  071 9663544.

– Recordings of Keynote Address:  
Please contact Fr. Eamonn O’Connor (087 2656063)

– Enquiries                    
Fr. A.B. O’Shea     (087 2517450)
Fr. Eamonn O’Connor (087 2656063)
Fr. Michael Duignan (087 6894467)
Mr Justin Harkin    (087 6171526)

– The Diocese of Elphin has:
38 parishes, 90 Catholic Churches and a Catholic Population of 68,000.
The Patrons of the Diocese are St Aiscus and Immaculate Conception.

Further information:
Martin Long Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Brenda Drumm Communications Officer (087 233 7797)
                                                                 
                                   
                                                                   
 
                                                                                                                                                                                         

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