Creating Pastoral Communities

Creating Pastoral Communities CMYK

Creating Pastoral Communities – January 2015 Consultation Document. Download here

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Creating Pastoral Communities

Speaking at the Diocesan Congress in September 2013 Bishop Treanor said: “We must ensure that everyone within the diocese has support for their Christian journey and this will require an increase in collaboration among neighbouring parishes. We must pray and discern about our future, recognising that we are called together as parts of one body. “

Diocesan Review

Responding to the Bishop’s call, in Spring 2014 the diocese commenced a comprehensive review of pastoral activities within each parish. In May the Diocesan Pastoral Council along with the Living Church team presented the information collated from the Diocesan Review.  People were challenged to realise that our regular Sunday mass attendance stands at around 20% of the total number of Catholics in the diocese according to the Census of 2011. At the same time, people were heartened that the numbers seeking baptism and marriage in the church has remained constant. Pope Francis calls us to be a missionary church and to go to those who are on the margins. For us that must include seeing how we can best reach out to those who don’t attend church regularly. “Pastoral ministry in a missionary key seeks to abandon the complacent attitude that says: ‘we have always done it this way’. I invite everyone to be bold and creative in this task of rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelisation in their respective communities.” (Evangelii Gaudium, 33)

Rethinking the Structures

In recent decades throughout the Universal Church there has been a movement towards greater collaboration between parishes.  Parishes are collaborating in ‘planning and providing for spiritual, sacramental and pastoral needs within their respective communities’ (Grouping Parishes for Mission, p.21). Here in Down and Connor we have had the benefit of looking at the experience of other dioceses both here in Ireland and throughout the world. We’ve been the recipients of very generous advice that encourages us to move towards Pastoral Communities in which neighbouring parishes share personnel, resources and skills to enable parishes to do better together what they cannot do alone.

The setting up of Pastoral Communities will have three distinct phases:  Phase 1 Creating Pastoral Community Boundaries, Phase 2 Communication & Formation, Phase 3 Establishing Pastoral Community Structures. We are currently in Phase 1.

Phase 1 Creating Pastoral Community Boundaries

Guiding Principles for choosing new boundaries were drawn up and agreed by our Diocesan Pastoral Council and the Council of Priests.  With the help of the Living Church Office Bishop Treanor then drew up a Draft Document with proposed new boundaries for 15 Pastoral Communities.  In November 2014 this was presented to the Clergy in three regional meetings for initial consultation.

Currently we are consulting across the parishes in the diocese, we encourage you to read the consultation document and contribute a response. In March clergy and lay representatives from each parish (coming from the Parish Pastoral Council where this exists) will meet with the bishops in four regional meetings. After these meetings Bishop Treanor will make a final decision about the new Pastoral Community Boundaries.