By Susan Gately - 03 February, 2018
On Wednesday evening, 31st January, Bishop John Fleming launched the Killala Diocesan Assembly Listening Process, which aims to gather insights from across the diocese so as to inform Church planning for the future.
Speaking in advance of the launch, the bishop quoted the late poet John O’Donoghue who said, ‘In modern Ireland, you’ll find the most searching and penetrating analysis of what is going on, and what we need to do, not among the priests or religious or theologians but among the people. So, we need to ask the people what they think and what’s going on.’
“These are important words in the context of our Listening Process here in the Diocese of Killala,” commented Bishop Fleming. “It is our plan that, during the months of February and March, an extensive listening process will take place in all of our parishes.”
The ‘extensive listening process’ takes the form of a survey with seven question, the most important of which is the first: ‘What are the areas of interest that concern you that need to be addressed at the diocesan assembly?’ explained the moderator of ‘Placing hope in faith – listening to the people of Killala diocese’, Fr Brendan Hoban.
“We are trying to survey people who are very engaged with the Church, those who are occasionally engaged and those not engaged at all – so [to survey] as wide a group as we possibly can,” he told CatholicIreland.
At the centre of the process is a steering committee of eighteen people, he explained, – the bishop, five priests, and twelve lay people – eight women and four men. The survey will initially be completed in parish settings beginning with individual members of parish councils, and then spreading out to members of choirs, youth groups etc. “We have about ten second level schools in the diocese. We’ve made contact with them and we’re hoping to get into the schools, particularly with the TY students,” explained Fr Hoban.
He agreed that it will be challenging to engage the 18 to 30 age group but hopes to attract a number of young people who will become “agent provocateurs” for their peers – inviting them to fill in the survey in pubs and other places where young people gather.
The invitation to the launch of the listening process was extended to parish councils and “anyone who would come”. The weather that night was poor. “We expected about 70 or 80 and we got almost 200. The reaction was extraordinary!” recounted Fr Hoban.
The Diocesan Assembly will meet in full session at the end of June, when the proposals which will emerge from the Listening Process will be put to its 300 delegates and voted on. “These proposals, when accepted, will then become diocesan policy and form the basis of our Pastoral Plan for the Diocese,” said Bishop Fleming.