The ‘Seeds of Hope’ pastoral plan is intended to bring about a Church that will better serve the people and communities of the Archdiocese of Cashel & Emly
more info – Cashel and Emly website
The plan will be officially launched at a special celebration Mass on Sunday 12th Sept 2021 at 3pm, which will be streamed live on www.churchservices.tv/holycrossabbey
The 12th century Holycross Abbey on the banks of the River Suir will play host to another pivotal moment in the history of the Archdiocese as it stands at this critical crossroads and sets out a pathway for a more inclusive and shared Church going forward.
The blueprint for transitioning the Church to this new era of inclusivity is set out across five ‘Seeds of Hope’ – Faith & Spirituality, Youth & Family, Community Engagement, Participation in Liturgy and Leadership & Co-Responsibility – that will guide the Church in the years ahead.
While the conclusion of the listening process and publication of the plan was delayed by the outbreak of the pandemic, some 2,500 people from representative demographics across the Archdiocese were consulted in the consensus focused plan. The plan confronts some of the key issues facing the Church, not least in the area of Leadership & Co-responsibility where the plan acknowledges that “Leadership into the future is a challenge for all of us and it should be seen as such”. It adds:
“We are on a journey together. We have to ‘be the change’ for the future.”
The plan emphasises the respect for the work which many priests have done in the past. “But the Church is changing now and the priest-led Church of the past will need to embrace a partnership approach with people into the future,” it states. It continues:
“A new style of Church leadership is challenging as it requires a deeper trust in lay people. This model will need to understand the nature of volunteering. The aim is to have many people doing a little rather than few people doing much.”
The plan recommends training for both priests and lay people so that they move towards this new model of co-responsibility. “This will mean greater participation by people, the use of facilitation skills, greater involvement in decision-making by lay people and the development of the ability to communicate with all parishioners,” it states.
Specifically, the plan addresses some of the biggest issues the Church has faced over recent decades, not least the failure to recognise the role of women in the Church.
“The inclusion of women in leadership roles as equal members of the Church is a priority into the future. Women must be enabled to fulfil their role in developing the mission of the Church,”
To that end, a key recommendation in the plan is the appointment of a Director of Pastoral Planning and Development (DPPD). The post was filled late last month with the appointment of Katherine Dullaghan, who will take up her post shortly.
On the issue of inclusivity, the report acknowledges that minority groups – from divorced or separated people to LGBT+, migrants and the Travelling Community – should all have a place and feel they belong to the parish faith community. So, too, should those who consider themselves ‘cultural Catholics’. The plan also stipulates that images of families used in parish and diocesan literature should represent all family types. “People should see themselves reflected,” it states. Also, parishes will be asked to identify minority groups who may feel less welcome or who do not feel they belong and plan events that convey hospitality and welcome.
The importance of youth in planning the future of the Church was also emphasised. The plan identifies the need for young people, young families and parents to be involved in developing a new model of Church through the formation of a Diocesan Youth Pastoral Team and the inclusion of youth representatives on Parish Pastoral Teams.
Care of the environment also has a strong focus, with a recommendation to establish an eco-justice group with children and their parents that will support the development of eco-spirituality.
The plan also looks to build on the work being done in safeguarding by providing training in safeguarding guidelines for adults willing to be involved in faith formation of children.
It places a significant emphasis also on the sacraments, not least baptism. In celebrating Baptism, the loss of babies who died before birth and the trauma associated with that should be addressed to bring about healing and peace, it adds.
It acknowledges that communication at diocesan and parish levels has become a challenge. “All avenues of communication, especially the positive aspects of social media, need to be utilised, particularly with young people, so that they can make their contribution to the future direction of the Church.”
While the Seeds of Hope plan embraces the change needed going forward, it also acknowledges the good work done. In particular, there is thanksgiving for faith as well as encouragement for people to share their faith journey and to celebrate the faith history/heritage of parishes.
The plan was led by the Diocesan Pastoral Council made up of lay women and men and clergy and engaged with each of the archdiocese’s 46 parishes – 35 in Tipperary and 11 in Limerick.
Looking ahead to Sunday’s celebration, Archbishop Kieran O’Relly said:
“Like any organisation, whether it is business, sporting or community organisation, you cannot operate without a plan. The need for a plan is very important in this time of change in our world, change in our society, change in our Church, change in so many different ways. This plan is a pathway into the future that the church together, laity and priests, will be on over the coming years. The launching of the Seeds of Hope pastoral plan coincides with the beginning of the journey towards a National Synod of the Church in Ireland. The archdiocese is now in an excellent position to participate fully in the Synodal process.”
Said Bridget Kirwan, a member of the Diocesan Pastoral Council,
“Our listening process was hugely informative. It was a very full and frank discussion with people of the diocese about how the Church is working for them today and, moreover, what they need the Church of tomorrow to be. What was very evident was that people’s search for God and meaning was never more relevant as it is in our own times and our hope is that this pastoral plan will assist us in that search.”