By Ann Marie Foley - 06 December, 2017
The parish is not an “outdated institution” because it has flexibility and can assume different “contours” depending on the missionary nature of pastor and community.
The days of “pay, pray and obey” are gone in our parishes. This is according to Bishop Denis Nulty who opened the Transformed Parish Conference, in Maynooth, Co Kildare.
Quoting of Fr James Mallon’s book ‘Divine Renovation’ he continued, “It is a huge frustration for priests and parish teams who invest great energy in these sacramental moments, to see a minimal number turn up the following Sunday or really engage with parish afterwards.”
The Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin Diocese added, “There are exceptions, and he puts a figure on that exception category – 6% to 20% – of parishioners in a typical parish, actively choose to take part in activities which deepen their faith. The big move James contends is to make disciples in all our parishes, not just people who belong.”
Fr James Mallon gave his own talk in the Glenroyal Hotel, Maynooth, on renewing and reviving parishes on 29th November and Bishop Nulty welcomed the priest when opening the conference. Looking at the history of diocese and parishes, the bishop quoted Pope Francis who said that the parish is not an “outdated institution” because it has flexibility and can assume different “contours” depending on the missionary nature of pastor and community.
There are 1,360 parishes in Ireland. Parish means different things to different people and to some it is the name of a GAA football and other teams. Bishop Nulty said that sports clubs and parishes are interwoven, however, building up a parish rotates around adult faith development. He suggested that next summer’s World Meeting of Families 2018 in Dublin offers an opportunity to engage in adult faith formation around the concept of family.
He said there is not a diocese in Ireland that isn’t at the present time reflecting on how they might do things differently. He added that Archbishop Eamon Martin has suggested that the parishes of tomorrow will be communities of “intentional disciples” sustained by “committed and formed” lay people.
“This entails a certain letting go by bishops and priests, and maybe by all of us who get possessive around parish,” said Bishop Nulty.
The meeting was organised by Tine and Alpha, led by Fr James Mallon. Bishop Nulty concluded by referring to the role of social media and how iPhones have changed our world. He questioned whether parishes are embracing such tools of “contemporary communication” to promote mission.
He said that while most of those gathered at the conference are not digital natives; “we are migrants in the digital world, but maybe this is where we need to be missionary, to be evangelisers! Sitting where its uncomfortable challenges us out of the zones we all retreat to.”
He thanked all the participants present in great numbers wearing their “parish jersey” on this day.