Priests in commuter towns need to engage actively with their communities to boost the Church’s visibility, Ireland’s newest bishop has said.
“It’s about interacting with the community – it’s about getting involved, and becoming part of the community,” Meath’s Bishop Tom Deenihan told The Irish Catholic.
“If the community isn’t coming into the Church, it’s about the Church going out into the community. Now, that sounds very clichéd, but we have to be visible, we have to be present, and we have be meeting people where they’re at,” he said, pointing out that this is in line with Pope Francis’ emphasis on a missionary Church.
“You want a situation where the priest is known, where people can come to the priest, or they can come to the church and are able to make that connection if they need to,” he continued.
Dr Deenihan was ordained as Bishop of Meath in Mullingar’s Cathedral of Christ the King on Sunday, September 2, succeeding Bishop Michael Smith, Ireland’s longest-serving bishop.
During his comments after his ordination Dr Deenihan spoke of how Catholics must avoid defeatism and remember the joy that is “critical” to Christian belief. Looking forward to the priestly ordination of Deacon Fergal Cummins at the end of the month, he called for prayers for vocations and encouragement for those considering vocations.
“If Christ personally invited his followers to follow him, why should we think it would be different in our day? We must, all of us, give that word of invitation and encouragement,” he said.
Speaking to this newspaper, Dr Deenihan noted that the Diocese of Meath is increasingly a diocese of satellite towns and said: “There are challenges for parish in that, because I think parish thrives as a community and if people are leaving early in the morning and not returning until late at night, it can be much more difficult to build community.”
Calling for the Church to work actively to build direct links with individuals, he said dynamic parishes can play a crucial role in this.
“The parish is becoming more active, and that’s good, because I think things again are being created,” he said. “I think the days of people coming to us are gone. We have to go to them.”