Working towards a new and inclusive church in Cashel and Emly

by | Sep 16, 2021 | All New, Featured, Irish Bishops' Conference

‘Seeds of Hope’ the pastoral plan for Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly was launched in Holycross Abbey with a call for a more inclusive Church.

Each diocese and the Church nationally must go on a “journey of understanding” to deliver an inclusive and shared Church, Archbishop of Cashel & Emly Kieran O’Reilly stated today.

Launching the archdiocese’s pastoral plan – ‘Seeds of Hope’ – at Holycross Abbey today, Archbishop O’Reilly said that the world has and is continuing to change and so too must the Church if it is to reflect God’s true message of love.

The Church, he said, has come through a lot of challenging moments due to its own wider failings and the sins of individuals within but despite so many being left on the margins, there is still a deep yearning for meaning and spirituality.

“Yes, the world around us is changing very rapidly and it is not only the Church that must adapt; all organisations and institutions are trying to do so. But we as a Church believe that we have a significant and important message of hope and love and peace to contribute to the world around us.”

However, while recognising the need for change, Archbishop O’Reilly acknowledged the good work of clergy and laity and said that it is a case of bringing that “good work with us”.

“But the Church must change, not because of necessity or because of declining vocations and attendance at Masses but because it is the right thing to do.  What we are now embarking on is about delivering a new and inclusive Church. And in doing so, it is the Holy Spirit that is guiding us,”

“We must step out of the past, embrace the present and move to the future.  The model whereby a public attends Mass once a week is not what the Church is about. It is and must be about the Church being out in the community rather than the community being in the Church. As ‘Seeds of Hope’ states, 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.”

The ‘Seeds of Hope’ plan for the archdiocese, which includes parishes in Tipperary and Limerick, follows a four-year ‘listening process’ – including COVID lock-down interruptions – and addresses key issues facing the Church today. Ultimately, it foresees a Church of ‘co-responsibility’ between laity and clergy going forward.

The plan has been developed across five strands – Faith & Spirituality, Youth & Family, Community Engagement, Participation in Liturgy and Leadership & Co-responsibility.

Groups representing each strand and drawn from different demographics and age groups walked the final steps of the ‘journey’ to Holycross Abbey today from the five roads entering the historic village, bringing with them symbols of each ‘Seed’. This was followed by a Mass of celebration in the Abbey led by Archbishop O’Reilly.

The Seeds of Hope plan lists the inclusion of women in leadership roles as a priority and acknowledges that 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. It encourages parishes to proactively welcome minority groups who feel less welcome or who do not feel they belong and plan events that convey hospitality and welcome.

There is a particular emphasis also on the importance of youth in planning the future of the Church, with the plan identifying a need for young people, young families and parents to be involved in developing a new model of Church.  It also acknowledges that communication has become a challenge and that all avenues of communication, especially the positive aspects of social media, need to be utilised.

Bridget Kirwan, a member of the Diocesan Pastoral Council involved in the creation of the ‘Seeds of Hope’ plan, said that the plan is an open invitation to people to join and build together. “Today is not the conclusion, it is just a new leg of a journey that is going to be ongoing. We have our five ‘Seeds of Hope’, our five pillars of this plan and a huge amount of listening has been done across every parish in the diocese to identify these pillars, to put the foundations in place. But we build from here.

“The plan, for me, reflects a period of change and a time of change for the church. I think it’s particularly challenged because of its past experiences. But I think it’s been called to be a different kind of church as it goes forward. So, we plant these seeds and we move together, including everybody. Those people who might have felt that they didn’t necessarily have a welcome in the church before, I hope that they will feel that they have a welcome here now. So, the church is being challenged to reach out to those people who may have felt isolated.”

Added Archbishop O’Reilly:

“Each generation is asked to reflect and respond to the question of Jesus in today’s Gospel, “Who do you say I am?” We pray for our diocese and for our people that through this Pastoral Plan ‘SEEDS of HOPE’ we may better be able to strive to answer that question.”