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Renewal is not merely about restructuring: Bishop

By Ann Marie Foley - 27 August, 2014

Bishop Donal McKeown (2)The Church needs a structure for evangelising the world today rather than for the Church’s self-preservation Bishop Donal McKeown of Derry has said.

Bishop McKeown made his comments in his homily last Sunday (24 August) at a Mass to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Church of Our Lady, Star of the Sea, Desertegney.

Clergy, past and present, joined many parishioners from the parish for the celebrations.

Speaking of how buildings alone do not make a Church, Bishop McKeown said every local church should undertake a process of discernment, purification and reform and that the bishop listen to everyone.

He said that the process should also emphasise adult faith formation which would also facilitate active parish pastoral councils.

“The question for each parish is not so much ‘where do we want to go?’ but ‘where does God want us to go?’” he said.

“The question is not ‘How can we be strong again?’ but ‘how can we serve the Gospel as Good News for the poor, the lost and the non-believer or the hurt and disappointed former believer?’”

50 years ago in 1964, Bishop Farren opened the church on the feast of St Eugene. It replaced an older building.

Desertegney is derived from Irish origins and was known as a holy place for many centuries. St Eigneach chose it for its isolation, as well as its access to fishing and beauty.

The church has a prominent bell tower which overlooks Lough Swilly and was designed by Liam McCormick, who is described as the ‘father of modern church architecture’ in Ireland.

It cost £33,000 to build and was done in ‘record time,’ making it possible to open the Church in 1964 on the Feast of the patron saint of the diocese, St Eugene.

The then Bishop of Derry, Bishop Neil Farren, told the congregation how special it was to be named and dedicated to our Mother of God, Star of Sea for those who had “lived so close to the ocean” and had experienced terrible storms and could appreciate what a star of the sea meant to a sailor who was trying, in the midst of difficulties to reach his home port.

des derry church b42628f79a294675b36162209f86e045_MNow 50 years on, in difficult times for Catholics in Ireland, Bishop McKeown said, “The Church is not one more organisation, jostling for position in the political market place.”

“Renewal is not merely a question of restructuring. Vocations promotion is not merely a recruitment drive,” he warned.

He continued, “Church leadership in the footsteps of Jesus and Peter is not the fruit of a degree in management. The Church is the Body of Christ, not our local franchise on behalf of God.”

Concluding, he said the anniversary should be more than “a nostalgic looking back”, rather it should be a confident step forward in building up the Body of Christ.

“May we learn from the past to let God build the future on the living stones that we are in the Church. And may people gather here in another 50 years’ time, grateful that our generation aligned itself on Jesus who is the cornerstone – and thus become a blessing for our confused and often sad age,” Bishop McKeown ended his homily.

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