D&C Congress ‘filled with faith’

D&C Congress ‘filled with faith’

Cathal Barry

Over 1,700 people from the diocese of Down and Connor packed out the impressive Waterfront Hall in Belfast at the weekend for their inaugural diocesan congress.

‘Living Church’ was an appropriate title for the first congress of its kind in Down and Connor, which drew together the faithful from every corner of the diocese last Saturday.

Phrases from participants such as ‘wonderful day’, ‘full of hope’ and ‘filled with faith’ were echoed by the Bishop of Down and Connor, Dr Noel Treanor, who heralded the occasion as a “milestone in the history of the diocese”.

The primary purpose of the congress was to launch the long awaited pastoral plan for the diocese which was the result of a lengthy and inclusive listening process.

Speaking at the congress, organiser Fr Alan McGuckian said “the plan must be bold but it also must be modest”.

“The fact that so many of you are gathered here today is a sign that we are a diocese adopting this plan together. With your help, your prayers and your support this plan will be put into effect in the coming years,” he said.

Key-note speaker at the event, The Irish Catholic columnist Breda O’Brien said the pastoral plan was a “vital tool” for the future of the Church in Down and Connor. However, she noted “it’s the journey that really matters”. 

“It’s going to be messy, it’s going to be difficult, and at times it is going to be frustrating, but so much learning and joy will come about as a result of the journey.

“This is a time of great change in our Church, but it is also a time of great opportunity,” she claimed.

Following the launch of the pastoral plan, participants attended workshops presented by a range of high profile speakers including Jesuit campaigner, Fr Peter McVerry, Church of Ireland Bishop of Connor, Alan Abernethy and Marriage & Family Life Projects Officer with the Catholic Bishops Conference of England & Wales, Elizabeth Davies.

Music was also provided on the day by the Down and Connor Folk Group, lead by Brendan Dowd, who have been developing faith through music ministry in the Diocese since 1983.

Drawing the congress to a close, Bishop Noel Treanor expressed his hope that participants would “bring home their own experiences of the congress and spread the good news in our parishes”. 

“That will constitute one of the most precious results of the day,” he said.



Tweets from the congress


Had a fabulous day at the Down & Connor Congress! Absolutely grace-filled day and so encouraging! Bring on the plan! #DCCongress



Really wonderful time today at DCCongress. Great outpouring of Godís grace. So many challenges and hope. Brilliant!



Amazing day at #DDCongress ñ enthusiastic about things to come in our Church! Breda OíBrien is my new fav.



Many thanks to all who made the D and C Congress such a wonderful, inspiring, faith filled and enthusing celebration #DCCongress



Down and Connor Diocesan Congress ñ a very happy and joyful celebration of faith today in the Waterfront Hall, Belfast.



Fantastic say at the Down and Connor Diocesan Congress in Belfast! Great to see Our Church so alive and vibrant! Praise God!


Voices from the Congress


Kieran Hill, University of Ulster, Coleraine

This is a great opportunity for people to come together and to be enthused about faith. For so long lay people have been in the background and this congress offers us a chance to take the lead. It gives people the opportunity to take responsibility for their faith and for passing on that faith. I hope every parish will get a spark from this that will regenerate a spirit of hopefulness for the Church.


Martin Grogan, Dunloy and Clovills

I have come here today to see what developments are ongoing and where we are going with the Church. I am excited about where the Church is going under our new Pope. I think we need a more practical Church, a Church that comes alive, that’s meaningful to people and I want to see a God on earth not a God in the sky. Lay people are becoming mobilised so I think this is an exciting time for the Church. Living church is all about giving the Church back to the people.


Connell Lafferty, Carrickfergus

I am a member of the parish council and our parish priest has promoted this congress as way to learn about some of the plans for the future of the Church. The Church has taken a lot of knocks lately so it should be interesting today to see what the Church is going to do about it and how it is going to address the issues of the day.


Michael Rogers, Carnlough

I think it’s important to be proactive so I am came here today to see what the diocesan pastoral plan is and hopefully we can then develop a miniature version of that in our own parish. It’s amazing to see the amount of people here today and how many people in the diocese that care. If the smaller groups from each parish can become more energised today and bring that back to their parishes then I would be very hopeful for the Faith.


Kathleen Curley – St Paul’s, Falls Road

The congress was advertised in the parish bulletin so I decided to put my name down and came along today. I hope to discover here today something that I could do for the parish. I would like to be able to help the Church in some way as I haven’t really committed myself to it but I think in my heart I would like to do something.


Ciara Mulholland – Loughshore Parishes

I am here because I think it is important for the youth to be involved in the pastoral plan for the diocese. Sometimes the youth just don’t feel involved in the Church and that there isn’t a place for them. I would love them to feel more included. I would definitely be very hopeful for the future of the Church based on what I have seen and heard here today. It has been amazing.


Roseann Doherty – Holy family Parish

I came here today as I am very involved with music ministry and with the liturgy at Mass. I hope to get some new ideas on how we are supposed to get the message out there to the young people and to the marginalised. I would be hopeful for the future Church especially considering how many of young people are getting involved in youth ministry these days which is very vibrant and full of hope. 


Veronica McAllister – Carnlough

I came to the congress become more involved in the Church rather than it just being a ritual of just going to Mass on a Sunday. But I also came to gain a better understanding and to learn how to build a better sense of community within our parish. I hope with the rest of the parishioners we can start that process here today. I think the future will be difficult but today certainly has shown there is hope.