By Susan Gately - 24 November, 2018
“Unless there is a radical reappraisal of what a parish community should be, there can be no real progress.” —Bishop Denis Nulty
Kildare and Leighlin’s new diocesan pastoral council will allow lay people to take a greater role in the diocese.
Bishop Denis Nulty announced the new council at a meeting of around 200 people – priests, religious, permanent deacons and lay people – at Mount Saint Anne’s in Killenard, Co. Laois, on Monday.
The gathering is part of an ongoing series of meetings arising from Bishop Nulty’s pastoral letter, Facing Changes & Challenges Together, published in May 2017. The letter highlighted challenges in the diocese, which has 27 of its 90 serving priests aged over 75.
“The stark figure points to the clear realisation that unless there is a radical reappraisal of what a parish community should be … there can be no real progress,” wrote Bishop Nulty.
Proposing a greater concern about mission rather than maintenance, Facing Changes and Challenges Together urged priests to delegate more, and be team members rather than an individual leading a parish community.
Monday’s meeting was the eighth meeting held to consider the document.
“There is a sense that at times the topic has moved from the hot ring on the cooker to the bottom oven, maybe even into the cold room,” Bishop Nulty said. “It’s hard for all of us to keep momentum going and even to track discussion points. In that respect I am announcing tonight the formation of a diocesan pastoral council to drive this topic, to own this agenda, to help shape the journey ahead.
“The diocesan pastoral council is an attempt to create a new culture in Kildare and Leighlin diocese, where priests are allowed and permitted to ‘let go’ and laity encouraged and empowered to ‘take up’. It’s a move from spectator to player mode.”
Speaking to CatholicIreland.net, Bishop Nulty said the new council would have around 20 members, probably for a three-year term, and it will meet bi-monthly. Each of the diocese’s three deaneries will elect two priests and appoint three lay people. In addition, Bishop Nulty will nominate delegates to represent Faith Development Services and the Religious and Permanent Diaconate.
“The members must be people of faith who have competency, interest and skills to deal with the issues that will arise, said Bishop Nulty. “I want people who are able to listen attentively, able to represent the opinions of others, assess issues, understand the issues in hand.
“Obviously, you must have an informed faith and be in communion with the Church but also [have] a commitment to serve the larger Church and the bigger picture,” he told CatholicIreland.net.
The remit of the body, following Canon 511, would be to study and weigh those matters that concern the pastoral work in the diocese and to propose practical solutions concerning them.
It would be an advisory body to the Bishop and he would attend all the meetings. “The immediate issue for us is facing the changes and challenges together – what we need to do in that area.”
Stressing the importance of involving young people at parish and diocesan level, he said young people should be “in every parish pastoral council, and young people should be certainly represented around the table at the diocesan pastoral council as much as we can”.
Parish councils had a vital role to play too, said the Bishop. Parish councils should gather skills around the table. “[We need] people who bring expertise and planning, information systems, the development of organisations. There are many people with different skills at parish [level] who use them in their business life, who can transform them and transfer them into the Church,” he said.
Agreeing that the model of bringing together representatives of ministries in parish councils was valid, he added, “We also need to get people with skills onto parish councils, people who are not prisoners of the past but able to embrace the future.”
Bishop Nulty said that some members of the new Kildare and Leighlin Diocesan Pastoral Council would receive professional training.