The Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin has adopted significant changes which will greatly enhance the participation of lay people in pastoral planning in the country’s largest Catholic diocese.
At a gathering of priests this afternoon it was confirmed that, in future, lay people will participate in Diocesan Deanery Meetings, which until now, were mostly attended only by priests. The new structures were drawn up by the Diocesan Council of Priests and adopted by Archbishop Martin.
The Archdiocese has sixteen separate Deaneries. Each Deanery meets four times a year to look at pastoral planning for the next quarter. The Deanery is considered an important cell of diocesan life, constructed to foster common pastoral programmes and activities among parishes. It provides an opportunity, introducing initiatives to give concrete effect to the Church’s mission, bringing Gospel values to bear in society and culture.
From today, Deanery groupings will no longer be made up solely of priests, but will expand in membership to allow the participation of Parish Pastoral workers, Deacons, Religious, Chaplains and Representatives from each Parish Pastoral Council.
Speaking at the launch of the new structures Archbishop Martin said he welcomed the broad support for the changes, especially from priests. He thanked the members of the Diocesan Council of Priests who over the years have greatly contributed to Dublin being a pioneer in areas such as the establishing of Parish Pastoral Councils in every parish, the introduction of the permanent diaconate, the introduction of full-time lay parish pastoral workers.
The Archdiocese of Dublin now has thirteen Team Ministries, where three or more parishes work collaboratively with groups of priests, parish pastoral workers, deacons and religious. Another 26 parishes are Grouped, sharing a Parish Priest or Administrator. Dublin was the first Irish Diocese to introduce a parish pastoral worker programme in 2008, training and employing lay men and women to work in parishes. There are now 27 Parish Pastoral Workers in the Archdiocese. Dublin was also the first Diocese to introduce the Permanent Diaconate, an ordained ministry for married men in 2012. There are now fourteen ordained deacons ministering in parish teams. Each parish in Dublin is supported by a Parish Pastoral Council made up largely of lay volunteers.
At today’s meeting a detailed analysis of the demographics of each deanery was presented — looking at the population of the areas by age group, family structure, education, income levels to try and accurately assess the needs of the Catholic population of Dublin in the future. Archbishop Martin said one of the most striking facts was that 16% population of the Diocese is under the age of 9. He said this would pose significant challenges in the years ahead in the provision of Education and also in resourcing Evangelisation programmes among a young, largely urban populace.
Archbishop Martin said, “The overall religious culture in the diocese is continually changing and our pastoral responses must continually change. However, pastoral planning should not get bogged down in the mechanics of consultation and just in structures. An inward-looking Church will not change hearts and will not enthuse people.”
“We have to reach out, as Pope Francis says, to those who are living on the margins of our society and on the margins of Church life. I am convinced that we can do it and part of my conviction comes from witnessing in recent years how our Parish Pastoral Councils have shown that they want to move forward in this way and they want to do what is best for the Church.”