By Ann Marie Foley - 29 September, 2013
A coordinated pastoral plan, along a common line, but which allows space to set priorities which remain faithful to the spirit, locality and life of each parish, is how Bishop Noel Treanor described the new pastoral plan for the Diocese of Down and Connor.
Yesterday, Bishop Treanor was among 1,800 people from the diocese who gathered at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast to launch a pastoral plan as part of the Living Church Congress.
The plan is the fruit of three years of meetings with lay people, clergy and religious in parishes, as well as with university students and groups of all kinds.
“(We) started with a listening process. The purpose of this meeting (at Waterfront Hall) is to make the plan known to those who will carry it out in their parishes,” Bishop Treanor told CatholicIreland.net. “We want to build a culture of creative co-responsibility in our parishes and in our diocese.”
The consultation for the Living Church Congress with 1,700 young people who received confirmation this year and a further 1,800 at the very public Waterfront Hall in Belfast was followed by in the evening by ‘Celebration of Faith’ starring The Priests.
“Like all Christians we have to account publicly about the faith that is within us and that motivates us and inspires us,” said Bishop Treanor.
He said the message and the location is timely given the recent words of Pope Francis and his predecessor Pope Benedict who spoke of bringing faith into the public space.
“The response of so many people by attending here today indicates that we all sense both a need for an event like this and its timeliness in this 21st century when there are processes moving in our world and in our church which are calling us to renew together our Church and our Christian faith.”
The pastoral plan contains the objectives of the Diocese of Down and Connor and the steps needed to meet them.
“I hope this programme will energise our parishes and provoke creative imagination so that each parish will realise it, along a common line, but in ways particular to the spirit and the locality and life of each parish,” the Bishop said.
“So (there is) co-ordination of pastoral response, of creating an open and transparent church, with space for each parish to give priority to what it considers is necessary in its place and its time.”
On a practical level each parish will establish a parish council and a finance committee. There will be ministries and assistant ministries to support the dwindling number of priests. Parishes will activate a culture of volunteering.
“(Men and women) will give time to make of our Church a living vibrant Church in every parish, every glen in County Antrim and every mountain and hill in County Down, in every town and village and cities Belfast and Lisburn,” Bishop Treanor said.
A special programme will be launched in January 2014 for the young people who will receive the sacrament of Confirmation.
A smaller public event described as a ‘faith forum’ will be held in about 12 months’ time where people will come together to discuss an issue of faith or society in the light of faith and human experience.
Progress on the pastoral plan will also be assessed during the next year or two.