‘Be Part of God’s Amazing Dream’ – Pastoral Letter from Bishop McKeown
Down and Connor Pastoral Letter
From the Apostolic Administrator, Bishop Donal McKeown
Pentecost Sunday, 28th May 2023
In his Pastoral Letter to mark the Feast of Pentecost, Bishop Donal McKeown, Apostolic Administrator, challenged the family of faith in Down and Connor to dare to be part of God’s amazing dream for His people in this Diocese:
“Living in a time of major change, God is calling us all to play our part in building a loving, welcoming, and inclusive community of faith.
“We must prayerfully discern together how, from our common baptism, all the people of God can play a greater and more active role in the life and leadership of the Diocese and parish communities.”
Over the coming weeks and months, the Pathways to the Future Diocesan planning initiative will invite prayer and reflection on the future mission, structures, and priorities for the Diocese of Down and Connor for the years ahead.
Bishop McKeown said:
“In this time of transition, leading to rebirth and renewal, there are certainly challenges to be faced. It will be necessary to adapt how priests, who are already having to manage workloads and demands that are unreasonable and not sustainable, are supported and cared for.”
“We need to look at how parishes are structured, how liturgical services are celebrated, and how all the lay faithful can work together in the service of God and each other.
“Greater collaboration between parishes will be necessary in a future where one priest will be responsible for a group or ‘family’ of parishes.
“Across the Diocese, it will be necessary to reflect seriously upon new ways of being parish and celebrating faith. This is a time to critically consider the role that each one of us can play in the life of the Church to meet the ongoing pastoral and sacramental needs of all.”
Bishop McKeown concluded:
“This is an exciting time to be church in Down and Connor. We can choose to stay locked in the upper room of our fears, nourishing one another with sad tales of past glories. Or we can pray together and discern where God is calling us to walk, despite our limited courage.”
He called all to help realise God’s amazing dream for Down and Connor:
“Together, we are called by God to respond to the challenges which confront us at this time. Together, we can renew and rebuild the Church. Together, we can become part of God’s amazing dream for ourselves and for the whole of creation.”
- Down and Connor currently has 86 parishes and 146 churches ministered to by around 84 priests in active ministry.
- 3,000 funerals and 800 marriages are celebrated in the Diocese each year.
- Only 7 priests in the Diocese are aged under 40 years.
- Within only 10 years the number of priests in active ministry will be almost half what it is today.
- Within 15 years, and for the first time in the history of the Diocese, there will be more retired priests than priests in active ministry.
- Twenty years from now, it is forecast that there will only be approximately 24 priests available for the current 86 parishes.
- Pathways to the Future is a planning process established to discern the mission, structures and priorities of the Diocese of Down and Connor for the next twenty tears.
- It is led by a Steering Group comprised of clergy and lay people from across the Diocese.
- The process will explore new approaches to lay ministry and lay-led services, including lay women and men helping families prepare for funerals and leading the prayers at gravesides or the crematoria.
- In the future, some current practices, such as the celebration of a Requiem Mass for every individual as part of the funeral rites, may no longer be the norm.
- Bishop Donal McKeown’s Pastoral Letter for the Feast of Pentecost.