Successful Assembly in Kilmore diocese provides basis for new pastoral plan

31 Oct 2014

· Listening Survey finds that it should be a priority pastoral concern for the Church to be a place of healing and calls for a major investment in the development of a comprehensive youth ministry

The Kilmore Diocesan Assembly, the third Assembly of the diocese since 2000, took place in Saint Patrick’s College, Cavan last weekend.

The theme of the Assembly was taken from three words Pope Francis used during his first homily as Pope: “Walking Together, Building the Kingdom, Professing our Faith”, and marked the culmination of two years of planning and consultation. Over 300 delegates attended on each of the two days including representatives from each of the 35 parishes in the diocese, priests and permanent deacons, religious, pastoral assistants, and representatives of apostolic and Church-based organisations and societies operating in Kilmore.

Pope Francis sent a message to those attending the Assembly in which he prayed that, “by walking together in this Assembly, the participants will encounter the truth and source of hope for their lives, Jesus Christ, and, filled with joy and gratitude, will share this gift by collaborating in building the kingdom, illuminating even the fringes of our world by their profession of faith and leading to ‘fruitfulness in the work of evangelisation’. (Evangelii gaudium, 11)”.

Over the course of the two days, delegates discussed a number of issues including the findings of a diocesan-wide ‘Listening Survey’; current patterns of sacramental practice; effective ways of ministering to young people; and proposals for future directions for the diocese in the light of the decreasing and aging number of clergy. There were a number of small group and open forum discussions during the course of the Assembly during which the delegates reflected on how to address key pastoral challenges facing the Church in Kilmore. A team of fifty facilitators collated the responses from the small group discussions.

In response to the Listening Survey, delegates said that they believed in and were committed to a future for our Church – a Church that can communicate the good news and is open to whatever internal change is needed in order to do that; a Church that honours the place of the priest but is not clerical; a Church where there is genuine shared responsibility with trained laity; a Church that is closer to the lives of the people (including those who do not regularly attend Mass), more understanding of the challenges and complexities of their lives and better able to speak to and reflect on those issues in our sacraments, liturgies and pastoral outreaches. Delegates expressed the wish that priests would have more time for pastoral issues and should delegate administration responsibilities. They felt strongly about a place for women in the Church where they could play key roles at parish and diocesan level. Those attending resonated strongly with concerns for mental health. The belief was expressed that the Church can be a place of healing and that this should be a priority pastoral concern in terms of networking with relevant agencies, how we celebrate our liturgies and sacraments, especially the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

With regard to sacramental practice, delegates agreed with the broad thrust of the address given by Father Michael Drumm, especially that sacraments are for the wounded, not the perfect. A pastoral approach to the sacraments that is inclusive and non-judgemental was required, one focussed on sharing the core of the Good News. While the wish to engage with people as they are was expressed, to take them as they are found, the Church should not wish to leave them there. The need for a sustained sacramental catechesis for adults, especially parents, was expressed as was the need to develop liturgies in a more pastorally sensitive way, one that speaks the language of the people, one that is more creative and flexible, one that is capable of working in a variety of contexts, including outside of church buildings. The belief was expressed that the diocese needed to work towards fewer and better prepared liturgies. Key to this would be the development of trained pastoral liturgy teams in the parishes.

In relation to the youth of the diocese, delegates felt most strongly that no action was not an option. They called for a major investment in the development of a comprehensive youth ministry in the diocese, one with a developed vision and policies, and with an effective communication strategy. This would need to include full-time youth ministry staff whose work priorities would include the training of volunteers; creating a shared ownership of the ministry with committed youth; networking with youth agencies, especially schools and the GAA, and outreach to unattached youth.

In response to the ageing profile and reduced numbers of clergy in the diocese, delegates expressed an urgent need to review the number of Masses in the diocese and the use of church buildings. It was felt that such a review needed to be conducted at diocesan level in consultation with local communities.

All the delegates agreed that what was important now would be “followed-up” and “actioned”. A report on the Assembly and its recommendations will be made at all Masses throughout the diocese on Sunday 23 November, the Feast of Christ the King. At the same time the Diocesan Pastoral Council will begin work on turning the recommendations into a Pastoral Plan to serve the diocese until 2020.

Notes to the Editor

· Bishop Leo O’Reilly was ordained Co-adjutor Bishop of Kilmore on 2 February 1997 and subsequently installed as Bishop of Kilmore on 15 November 1998. He was the principal celebrant and homilist at the Assembly Mass in the Cathedral of Saint Patrick & Felim in Cavan on Sunday 26 October 2014.

· An Assembly is a meeting of clergy, religious and laity from all around the diocese. It is a consultative group, which discusses issues of importance for the diocese and makes recommendations about future directions. This is the third such Assembly in the Diocese of Kilmore with previous ones held in 2000 and 2007 – each of which produced a pastoral plan for the diocese. In addition to Bishop O’Reilly, the guest speakers at this weekend’s Assembly included: Father Michael Router PP VF, Bailieboro – The Outcomes of the Listening Survey in the Diocese; Father Michael Drumm from the Diocese of Elphin and Executive Chairperson of the Irish Catholic Schools Partnership Trust – ‘Sacramental Practice and Modern Culture’. Matthew McFadden from Clogher don Oige in Monaghan – ‘Reaching Out to Youth’; Father Enda Murphy, Diocesan Director of Pastoral Services and Youth Ministry – ‘The Future Direction of our Diocese’; Breda O’Brien, Mother of Four, Second-Level Teacher and Columnist with The Irish Catholic and the Irish Times

· The Diocese of Kilmore straddles the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland and includes almost all of County Cavan, and parts of Counties Leitrim, Fermanagh, Meath and Sligo. It comprises of 35 parishes with 95 churches and a Catholic population of approximately 70,000 served by around 60 priests in active ministry. Each parish has a pastoral council, a finance committee, a recruitment committee and a safeguarding children representative. There are currently nine pastoral areas in the diocese which provide an opportunity for parishes to work together in such a way that individual parishes are supported in their efforts to ensure that they will continue to exist as vibrant communities of faith into the future. Each Pastoral Area is headed by a Pastoral Area Leader. There are currently four congregations of religious sisters and one congregation of male religious in the diocese.

· Media Contact Persons: Father Donal Kilduff, Diocesan Communications Director, Bishop’s House, Cavan – 049 4331496 (Office Hours); Father Enda Murphy, Diocesan Director of Pastoral Services & Youth Ministry, Kilmore Diocesan Pastoral Centre, Cullies, Cavan – 049 4375004 (extension 103) or 086 3843373; Seán Coll, Director of the Kilmore Diocesan Pastoral Centre, Cullies, Cavan – 049 4375004 (extension 102) or 087 6724338 or the Catholic Communications Office in Maynooth: Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678