By Sarah Mac Donald - 11 June, 2019
A new five-year pastoral plan for the Diocese of Waterford and Lismore was launched on Sunday by Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan.
‘Go, make Disciples’ sets out “a radical transformation of ecclesial culture from maintenance to mission” for the diocese’s parishes between 2019 and 2024.
At a Mass to celebrate Pentecost Sunday in the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity in Waterford, Bishop Cullinan said the plan was “an expression of faith in the power of the Holy Spirit who ‘makes all things new’ and of our hope that under the guidance of the Spirit our parishes will be alive and hearts set on fire.”
The pastoral plan follows a process of dialogue and consultation, initiated by the Diocesan Pastoral Council and conducted in a number of venues throughout the diocese during 2018.
“Peoples’ hopes and dreams for our local Church were recorded at the ‘listening sessions’. Parishioners are emphatic that change is needed; it will not do to continue as before if we are to address the many challenges that face the Church in her mission today,” Dr Cullinan explained.
He noted that those who contributed to the listening process had identified the absence of youth as an issue of concern, as well as the ageing and dwindling congregations, the serious decline in vocations to priesthood and religious life, and the enormous challenge posed by the rapid process of secularisation in Irish society.
“It is clear that these are issues that need to be urgently addressed in a new pastoral plan. People are proud of their Catholic faith and believe that we have Good News to share, but we must read the signs of the times, listen to what the Spirit of God is saying to us, and then plan how we are going to share that Good News now and in the future,” the Bishop of Waterford and Lismore said.
Four themes or core strategic directions were identified to realise the pastoral vision for the diocese.
Highlighting how evangelisation is the key to this transformation of culture, Bishop Cullinan said the Alpha Programme will be rolled out in parishes to rekindle and help people rediscover what it means to be a disciple.
A Director of Adult Faith Formation will be appointed to support adults in their faith journey.
A Director of Youth Ministry will also be appointed to lead the programme for the evangelisation of youth and to coordinate ministry to youth.
A greater emphasis on team ministry in new pastoral units across the diocese is needed, where small groups of parishes, their clergy and trained lay people will work in teams, the Bishop acknowledged.
“Evangelisation should lead people to the faith community. Throughout the pastoral plan, the vision is one of building a Christian community of disciples where all feel welcome and have a sense of belonging and where liturgy connects with the real lives of people.”
He said a disciple of Christ is called to ‘go’, to reach out to others, and to transform the world in solidarity with others.
A diocesan Commission for Justice and Peace is also to be established which will advocate on behalf of marginalised groups, including the homeless, as well as encouraging actions on respect for the environment and to counteract the threat of global warming.
The diocesan pastoral plan can be read here: https://www.waterfordlismore.ie/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Pastoral-Plan-2019-for-Website.pdf.