By Sarah Mac Donald - 30 November, 2019
A study carried out by the Association of Catholics in Ireland (ACI) has revealed that 54% of the laity regard their parish pastoral councils as ineffective.
The ACI carried out the pilot study among members across 36 parishes to explore the extent of lay leadership in the Catholic Church and the role that the laity plays in parish leadership.
The study, which was conducted on an all-island basis, looked at the role of pastoral councils; the prevalence of adult faith formation; the extent of family catechesis; and the source of and the reading of the Prayers of the Faithful at Masses.
The ACI study findings showed that 67% had parish pastoral councils but 54% regarded them as ineffective; only 41% had adult faith development activities, though limited; only 24% reported mention of family catechesis by clergy; only 52% had lay-led prayer services in the absence of a priest; lay parishioners prepared the Prayers of the Faithful for Mass in only 17% of parishes but were read by laity in 54% of parishes.
The ACI pilot study highlights serious concern about active lay involvement in parishes and calls on the Bishops to commission a countrywide professionally designed and administered survey to identify key issues which will have to be addressed to ensure the survival of the Christian ethos in parishes across the country in the context of the diminishing numbers of priests and an ageing cohort of lay faithful attending church on a regular basis.
This research, the ACI believes, should examine the causes of alienation and indifference, especially among younger generations, in light of the fact that 78% of the population self-identified as Catholic in the 2016 census in the Republic.
The Association believes a full diocesan synod should be carried out in every diocese across the country.
The members of the ACI also would like to see a national synod take place to discern the way forward for the Church in Ireland.
In a statement, the ACI said the “natural ‘next step’ would be to call a National Synod with the full involvement of the baptised lay faithful to discern a way forward which will seek to guide the church in Ireland in the years ahead, with the blessing and support of the Holy Spirit.”
The Association of Catholics in Ireland describes itself as committed to the pursuit of a reform and renewal agenda in the Irish Catholic Church based in the spirit of Vatican II.
“It is committed to helping to re-build (through words and deeds) a united Church based on the teachings of Jesus Christ – a Church that is inclusive, compassionate, accepts the equality of all believers by virtue of their baptism and acknowledges its failures.”
A copy of the ACI Pilot Study is available on https://acireland.ie/aci-press-release-pilot-study-highlights-lack-of-lay-leadership-in-parishes/