In early 2019 Bishop Francis Duffy formed a planning committee to prepare for a Diocesan Assembly. The on-going restrictions meant that an in-person gathering was still not possible at the time, so the assembly committee opted for a Zoom Assembly in October 2020. What are people concerned about now?
What comes across most strongly is a sense of people absorbed in the challenges of daily living. And in the middle of those challenges by far the most important thing for people is their families. This is true for young and old, across all the minority groups and obviously for parents.
The three core issues for parents are family, finance, and health.
- For the elderly, along with family their concerns are for their own health and independence; they value their faith and they worry about what kind of world is going to be there for their grand-children.
- For the young, the important issues are family, friends, social life and social pressures.
- For the various minority groups, family and community are core – they long for their families to fit in.
What do people want to say to the church?
On the one hand there is certainly a sense of hurt and anger at how the church has been in the past. This relates particularly to the abuse scandals. But there is also a widely held view that the church people grew up with was often authoritarian and out of touch with their lives. This view is not just held by younger generations, but by older people as well. treats people as equals.
There is a strong focus on priests as core to the church. And here there is a clear call for married priests and women priests.
Positives in the local churches
- Smaller scale services – in many cases the smaller scale of services imposed by the restrictions resulted in a more personal faith experience.
- Technology – the use of social media for services and other church events.
- Appreciation – a greater sense now of the value of our faith and church life, something that we may have taken for granted.
- Flexibility – our ability at parish level to rise to the Covid challenges.
Submissions from Parish Pastoral Councils and Parish Assemblies
35 submissions were received from parishes about assembly priorities for action. The main areas were:
Youth – offering an experience of faith and church that attracts.
Family – supporting parents to promote faith in the home.
Rituals – the potential for our liturgies (including Sunday Mass) and sacraments to relate better and connect better.
Priests – the role of the priest is seen as a key element for the future. Here the desire is to promote vocations and for many, to open priesthood to married men and women.
Lay roles – the role of lay people is seen as complementary to that of the priest. The desire here is to grow the involvement of lay people and to provide the necessary training and support.
Submissions from priests
- the priority of mission,
- the need to address lay roles and lay training for this mission.
- the support needs of priests in the face of ‘a tsunami of change’, including support for priests from overseas.
The main action points from the submissions were summarised as follows:
- There is a strong sense of the value of working with systems that already have connection with youth.
- Explore how best to tap into the capacity for peer ministry.
- Make use of key inclusive moments to share the Good News
- Reach out to support families on key issues for them
- Build parish capacity for parish family liturgy.
- There is a very strong sense that the time for change is upon us. At the same time the implications of that for such things as parish liturgies may not have dawned on people.