By Sarah Mac Donald - 18 September, 2014
Significant new changes enhancing the role of the laity in the pastoral planning of the archdiocese of Dublin were announced by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin on Wednesday.
Deanery groupings will no longer be made up solely of priests, but will expand in membership to allow the participation of parish pastoral workers, deacons, Religious, chaplains and representatives from each parish pastoral council.
The structural changes were drawn up by the diocesan council of priests and adopted by Archbishop Martin.
The Archdiocese of Dublin has 16 separate deaneries, each of which meets four times a year to look at pastoral planning for the next quarter.
The deanery is considered an important cell of diocesan life, intended to foster common pastoral programmes and activities among parishes.
Speaking at the launch of the new structures, Archbishop Martin said he welcomed the broad support for the changes, especially from priests.
He thanked the members of the diocesan council of priests, who he said over the years had greatly contributed to Dublin being a pioneer in areas such as the establishing of parish pastoral councils in every parish, the introduction of the permanent diaconate, and the introduction of full-time lay parish pastoral workers.
The Archdiocese of Dublin now has thirteen team ministries, where three or more parishes work collaboratively with groups of priests, parish pastoral workers, deacons and religious.
Another 26 parishes are grouped, sharing a parish priest or Administrator.
Dublin was the first Irish diocese to introduce a parish pastoral worker programme in 2008, training and employing lay men and women to work in parishes.
There are now 27 parish pastoral workers in the Archdiocese of Dublin, which was also the first diocese in the Irish church to introduce the permanent diaconate, an ordained ministry for men in 2012.
There are now 14 deacons ministering in parish teams. Each parish in Dublin is supported by a Parish Pastoral Council made up largely of lay volunteers.
A detailed analysis of the demographics of each deanery was presented to the Archbishop – looking at the population of the various areas by age group, family structure, education, income levels in order to try and accurately assess the needs of the catholic population of Dublin in the future.
Archbishop Martin said one of the most striking facts was that 16% population of the Dublin diocese is under the age of 9.
He said this would pose significant challenges in the years ahead in the provision of education and also in resourcing evangelisation programmes among a young, largely urban populace.
“The overall religious culture in the diocese is continually changing and our pastoral responses must continually change,” he said.
“However, pastoral planning should not get bogged down in the mechanics of consultation and just in structures. An inward-looking Church will not change hearts and will not enthuse people,” the Archbishop said.
“We have to reach out, as Pope Francis says, to those who are living on the margins of our society and on the margins of Church life. I am convinced that we can do it and part of my conviction comes from witnessing in recent years how our Parish Pastoral Councils have shown that they want to move forward in this way and they want to do what is best for the Church.”