By Katie Ascough - 15 November, 2019
Bishop Dermot Farrell of Ossory has written a pastoral letter to the 42 parishes in his diocese of 67 priests. The diocese consists of most of County Kilkenny and portions of Counties Laois and Offaly.
The pastoral letter begins by casting back to a moment in the early days of the Church, recorded in Acts 15:1–41, when a response was required to meet the needs of the time.
The rapid growth of the Church had prompted the last action of Peter and the Apostles: to send Paul, Barnabas and others to tell the Gentiles they need not be circumcised. This example highlights that then, as now in the Diocese of Ossory, “the status quo would not suffice” according to Bishop Farrell.
The bishop’s letter then transitions to the relevant topic for the Diocese of Ossory: Bishop Farrell and his team plan to establish 13 pastoral areas, gathering parishes into groups that can support each other and share resources. “These pastoral areas are just now beginning to work together and explore what is possible. These groupings will permit our individual parishes to become stronger, more alive, and be in a position to offer an even greater level of service in their communities. May this new – deeper, more gentle – life become more and more visible,” Bishop Farrell said.
He also advised of new Mass times in every parish in the diocese: “Beginning on the First Sunday of Advent – 1 December next – there will be changes in the number of Masses in our parishes. These changes reflect the changing character of our parishes and communities: not only the effect of fewer clergy, but also the need for greater collaboration between parishes. I hope that, in time, this will also allow our liturgies to improve. Every liturgy, every Mass, is a time to hear the Lord, and to welcome Him. Simple changes such as allowing more time between Masses will permit and encourage improved celebration and better participation of everyone who comes to Church.”
With an air of hope and even excitement, the bishop’s letter concluded: “In the year ahead we will continue to work together to see all that is possible. This is an exciting time in our Diocese – new shoots are emerging, new supports are being given, and new structures are developing. It is ordinary, and yet always extraordinary, to see our community – all of its members – discussing, responding, growing, and continuing today what the Lord began with the Apostles long ago.”