By Sarah Mac Donald - 13 October, 2013
The possible introduction of permanent deacons is one of a number of wide ranging proposals outlined in the eight-page document, ‘Journeying Together in Faith’.
Other proposals include the possibility of groupings of parishes employing lay pastoral workers; the provision of training and formation for parish secretaries and Finance Councils; as well as the development of stronger ties between parishes which border neighbouring dioceses.
The document is the fruit of a broad consultation process which the Archdiocese undertook over recent months.
A draft was circulated to every parish pastoral council in the diocese last April as well as to the Council of Priests and the Diocesan Pastoral Council.
A total of 62 written submissions were received in response to the draft and these have helped shape the current proposals.
‘Journeying Together in Faith’ provides a template from which the Archdiocese will plan for the period 2013-2020.
It is estimated that by 2020, the 55 parishes of Tuam will be served by approximately 50 priests, some 20 less than are currently in active ministry. This will mean that by 2020 a growing number of parishes will not have a resident priest.
The document underlines the importance of the promotion and nurturing of vocations to the priesthood, saying that this is the responsibility of every member of the Church community.
In planning for the future, the document stresses that while every parish may not have a resident priest all parishes will continue to have the services of a priest who will work as part of a team in groupings or ‘clusters’ of parishes.
Baptisms, weddings and funerals together with the main parish celebrations such as First Communion and Confirmation will continue to be celebrated in local parish churches.
Archbishop Neary and Sean Staunton, Chairperson of the Diocean Pastoral Council, have welcomed the plan and said they are looking forward to implementing it.
Sean Staunton added that “as current structures change, the role and responsibility of an educated and committed laity will take on increasing importance.”
“It is an opportunity,” he continued, “for every baptised Catholic to play their role in the building up of our Church and in the fostering of faith.”
At the launch of ‘Journeying Together in Faith’, Archbishop Neary said that it would “provide direction as to how we as an Archdiocese, priests and people, will respond together to the challenges which face us as we plan for the future.”
‘Journeying Together in Faith’ envisages that over the coming years there may well be just one priest serving the parishes of Keelogues and Parke and that the parishes of Castlebar and Islandeady will be served by just three priests.
“Such change will be challenging for both the lay faithful and their priest and will require courage and generosity but I am convinced that together, and with the grace of the Holy Spirit, we can and we will face an ever changing future with confidence, and that faith will continue to flourish long into the future’, Archbishop Neary said.