Less buildings, more mission needed says Archbishop of Dublin

Less buildings, more mission needed says Archbishop of Dublin Archbishop Dermot Farrell of Dublin delivers his homily at the World Day of Peace Mass in Ballyroan Parish, Dublin, on Jan. 1, 2024. (OSV News photo/courtesy John McElroy)

The Archbishop of Dublin has warned that the Church can’t be reduced to buildings, particularly at a time when preaching the Gospel is needed more than ever before “in the history of the Church in Ireland”.

Speaking to The Irish Catholic, Archbishop Dermot Farrell said that “the Church can’t be reduced to buildings, or even to a geographical parish”.

“The key thing in the Church is the proclamation of the Gospel, that’s not limited to an infrastructure. In fact, we have a total surfeit of infrastructure that we don’t actually need,” Archbishop Farrell said.

“We could do with a lot less infrastructure, but a lot more people who take on the mission and that’s the mission of the Church to live the Gospel and to preach it. And we are in territory in Ireland at the moment where that is more needed than ever was needed before in the history of the Church in Ireland.”

The decision to sell infrastructure is up to parishes, and already some have sold buildings “because they’ve been repositioning themselves, realigning themselves and some buildings have become surplus to requirements and the community, the parish pastoral council, the parish finance committee, in conjunction with the parish priest have made the decision to sell off some of their properties,” Dr Farrell added.

Looking at faith formation and preaching the Gospel, the prelate said that the archdiocese is moving forward with the synodal process, giving the example of 45 new lay catechists receiving their certificates last month in Donnybrook.

“Those are people from our parishes who are going to work in conjunction with the priests in the parishes throughout the archdiocese. And we’ve been certainly pushing on with the whole synodal process because that is the future of the Church, you have to have lay involvement,” he said, adding that there is a “great generosity of spirit” from people such as the new catechists “who have taken on this, to do that in their parishes and do it at local level”.

Regarding the idea of paying skilled individuals to work in parishes in a more formal capacity, as the number of volunteers is decreasing, the archbishop said: “Each individual parish is not going to be able to pay people, that’s not possible. We do need a combination of volunteers and some paid people. The paid people will probably have to be shared, for example, for somebody to look after the maintenance.

“You don’t need the sacrament of ordination to look after buildings and grounds and heating systems and licences, to keeping them up to standard. That can be done by a layperson, but not in one parish because it’s too expensive. But if three or four parishes get together, or five, they can employ somebody who can do that. It’s kind of what I would call a parish manager, and we’ve been actually encouraging our parishes to go down that road, and some have, some groups of parishes have already made that move.”