By Ann Marie Foley - 20 May, 2015
Bishop Noel Treanor has urged all parishioners, priests and religious in the diocese of Down and Connor to put their shoulders to “making a living and lively success” of the Creating Pastoral Communities plan which he has just published.
The plan, which the Bishop describes as ‘proposals’, divides the diocese into pastoral communities, and is the culmination of consultations which began with the Living Church project in 2011 and concluded with Spring 2015 consultations.
In the short report, Bishop Treanor stated that regular mass attendance is at around 20% in the diocese, however those being brought for baptism is much higher.
The bishop suggested that this means that parents and grandparents desire new life in baptism for their children.
“In our secularised society, in which many people experience a crisis of faith, this foundational relationship with Christ and his Church is undermined. Parents and grandparents today need our ongoing support and challenge to live up to the promises they undertake on behalf of their children,” stated the bishop.
As part of the reorganisation of the diocese three groups of parishes piloted ‘pastoral areas’.
One member of the North Belfast Pastoral Area team said that initially as the parishes worked together their fears were allayed and their trust grew.
They found they had a new energy and commitment for shared mission.
Another pilot in the north Connor area undertook new initiatives like a Family Fun Day and a Quick Journey through the Bible.
“As people of faith we are called to see this moment of decline in Mass attendances, in priestly and religious vocations and in other ways, as a moment of grace and a call from God to see the world with fresh eyes,” stated Bishop Treanor.
He hopes that by pooling resources there will be a new energy and openness about new possibilities among the parishes.
The plan outlines 13 new Pastoral Communities and the Bishop stated that while the boundaries are “not written in stone” he does hope that parishioners and priests will work together to create “new centres of evangelisation”.
There are between five and 11 parishes in each Pastoral Community.
New Pastoral Community Councils will be formed with members from several constituent parishes. Bishop Treanor invited each Council to find appropriate ways to mark the Year of Mercy.
Their members will also receive training and this will vary from one area to another depending on their experience.
Initially training will involve areas of leadership, team building and discerning gifts and charisms for service.
“For the pastoral good of all, in the service of the Risen Lord, let us put our shoulders to making a living and lively success of these Pastoral Communities for the glory of God, for the sanctification of our parish communities and for the religious well-being of society, “Bishop Treanor concluded.