By Susan Gately - 01 September, 2013
Bishop Brendan Leahy has indicated he is particularly concerned about young people and is anxious to “open up a dialogue” with them.
The Bishop, who leads 170,000 Catholics in the Diocese of Limerick, recently challenged young people from the diocesan college, St Munchin’s (see CatholicIreland.net 29th August 2013) to make their school “a place where it is ‘cool’ to believe in God”.
He has also indicated that he intends to use every media opportunity he can to reach out to those without belief or who are “hanging on in the Church by their fingernails”.
Theology and doctrine are not enough – it is only by telling our experiences as convinced Christians that faith will be transmitted to a new generation he told CatholicIreland.net
The former professor of systematic theology at the national seminary in Maynooth is aware of the difficulty of transmitting faith from one generation to the next.
He is also aware of the crisis in catechesis and its consequences for the transmission of faith but believes the answer lies not in terms of producing more and better catechetics, but rather in making a connection between faith and life.
“The issue now is to communicate to a young generation, the richness of what we have discovered and we can probably only do that by telling our [own] experience of faith,” he told CatholicIreland.net
“A father recently told me about a chat he had with his son, a bright lad, who told him frankly: ‘Dad, I just don’t get it’.” Connecting faith and life is the issue, he said.
In the early Church, he explained, Christians went through a period of catechumenate where they were introduced into the teachings of Christianity.
Over time a “social catechumenate” developed “where everyone picked up the faith by osmosis.” Now, there needs to be a new type of catechumenate according to Bishop Leahy, which is “experience, community and witness based”.
A project the bishop of four months has set about achieving in Limerick is to try to visit each parish in the diocese and stay overnight to get to know the priests and people in a ‘low key’ way, starting as Pope Francis advised “from the outskirts”.
Southhill and Moyross, two areas associated with huge social deprivation, violence and drugs, were his first ports of call.
The parish priest of Moyross, Fr Tony O’Riordan SJ, said it was “no stress” having the bishop to stay.
“He’s a bishop in the mould of Pope Francis – not hung up on pomp and ceremony,” Fr O’Riordan told CatholicIreland.net “He was a fantastic guest, interested in people and supportive.”
The Bishop’s visit stretched over two days, which he spent casually going around the parish meeting people. In the evening time, Fr Tony invited a few neighbours in and they chatted to Bishop Leahy about the history and challenges of the area. “Then he [the bishop] had a few calls to make, and he went to bed.”
Next morning as Fr Tony prepared breakfast, Bishop Leahy noticed he was hobbling. “I had twisted my ankle two weeks before, and it was stiffest in the morning. He said to me ‘You sit down and I’ll make your breakfast’.”
“Priests need to be close to their people,” remarked Fr O’Riordan, “and bishops need to be close to their priests. Brendan is a man who encapsulates that.”