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Archbishop outlines vision for parish communities of the future

By Sarah Mac Donald - 05 December, 2017

At the closing Mass for a Dublin parish’s jubilee celebrations, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin briefly outlined his vision for parish communities of the future.

Speaking at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Ballyroan, the Archbishop of Dublin said his vision was not just about different parishes coming together in clusters to meet certain needs.

Instead, he expressed the hope that parishes in the future would work together by fostering the talents of all in a common mission of realising the message of Jesus in concrete ways in society.

“We must seek the ways to restore the place of God in society and above all in the hearts of our young people,” he stressed.

Acknowledging that living the faith in contemporary culture was not easy, he said, “Yet rarely has the culture of any period had such need of the message of Jesus Christ and the witness of men and women of faith.”

In this ambiguous world, the Church must become more and more “the space where we learn not just formulae and catechism. We must learn from Jesus what I call ‘Gospel wisdom’, a wisdom that will offer that freedom to rise above the confusion in much of contemporary culture.”

Dr Martin added, “We have to learn to renounce certain values for ourselves in order to live for others as Jesus did and then find joy and fulfilment in living the Gospel.”

This ‘era of progress’ had brought huge benefits in terms of progress in healthcare, in terms of consumer choice, in terms of better education, while progress in information technology had broken down many barriers of communication.

However, he underlined that the negative effects of that progress and our lifestyles could not be overlooked.

“We have witnessed damage to the environment, an increased individualism with its effects on married and family life, and a weakening of the sense of community. Think of the vast wealth that is generated but not always shared.

“We live in a world where we throw away tons of food each week and where we have children coming to school hungry. Think of the many, unfortunately, who have fallen victim to the lifestyle of modernity and who end up fragile, insecure, fearful, uncertain and even broken persons.”

Recalling Pope Benedict’s reference to “the ambiguity of progress”, Archbishop Martin stated, “Progress is not linear. It is not always leading in the right direction.” He added that progress is not automatic; it requires vision, it requires commitment and it requires community.

Returning to Ballyroan’s jubilee, Dr Martin paid tribute to the parish’s role in creating a sense of community in the 1960s in what was a new and “somewhat anonymous suburb of Dublin”.

He said “It was this Church that began to turn the area from a group of isolated estates into a true community. Community was built up through commitment, the commitment of families who shared values about the Dublin of that day and the Dublin of the future.”

He continued, “The Church became a centre of community and around the Church community an extraordinary range of services, buildings and experiences sprung up, all interrelated and yet each one maintaining its focus and its leadership. First class parish schools grew up fully inserted into the life of the community.

“If the walls of this Church could speak, they would reveal something even more important. The Church became the place where people came at the important moments of life: baptisms, marriages, and funerals. It also saw the ordination of priests from this community. People came in silent prayer in moments of trial. In the sacrament of reconciliation, people were lifted up from the burdens of sin and given a new freedom to get on with their lives.”

He paid tribute to Fr Brendan Madden who he said threw all his energy, creativity, and personal kindness into making this a vibrant parish where there was a place for everyone and where everyone could take responsibility.

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