JULY 2005

Dear People,
You might remember last Lent, I wrote encouraging the people of the Diocese to take part in a consultation process to discuss the formation of an action plan to address the pastoral needs of the Diocese. Regional meetings were held, offering everyone the chance to contribute to this process.
I am pleased to report that following these regional meetings the findings of the consultation process have been collated and summarised and priorities have been identified.

Concrete steps are now being taken to help address the priorities that have arisen. Nine working areas, as outlined below, have been identified for action. (These areas are not in any order of priority):

· Faith Formation
· Youth Ministry
· Prayer and Spirituality
· Meaningful Liturgy
· Care for Priests
· Developing the Role and Ministry of Women in the Church
· Family Ministry – Life Issues
· Outreach to Others – Ecumenism and Interfaith Dialogue
· Leadership and Training – ( which includes: Diocesan / Parish Survey – Attending to Diocesan and Parish Structures – Parish Pastoral Councils.)

Working groups have been set up to address each of these areas, with the task of looking at the main themes which have come through both from the consultation process last Lent and the discussions of the priests of the Diocese at the annual conference of clergy, which took place at Bundoran last November.
I look forward very much to seeing the aims of this ambitious pastoral plan addressed in practical ways. I appreciate that this will be an ongoing project. Our intention is to have initial targets for the next three years, but the work of ministry and evangelisation is an ongoing one, needing constant re-assessment, re-evaluation and renewal. This present plan is but one step in this process.

No one is approaching this project with a naïve lack of realism about the magnitude of what should or could be done. At the same time, no one should be discouraged or overwhelmed by the difficulties to be faced, or perhaps better put, the opportunities to be embraced. The disciples, gathered in the upper room after the Ascension of Jesus, were petrified and paralysed by fear, even though they had just experienced the very presence of the Risen Lord. It was only when they received the gift of the Spirit that they were liberated to go forth and do what had to be done. In reality nothing in the outside world changed for them. What changed was their own faith and their capacity to believe and trust. We too pray for such an infusion of the Holy Spirit which will transform and direct us to face the new challenges of faith which we encounter today in our world.

I have no doubt that implementing this pastoral plan will be a learning experience for all involved, and that it may well lead us in directions totally unforeseen. Success will be slow and at times hard to quantify, but I know that with the assistance of people of faith and goodwill, much can be achieved to help spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ and make the presence of His love and the consolation of His truth more effective in our world through the mission of the Church.

I would encourage as many as possible to play their part in contributing to our diocesan pastoral plan. As I have said before, I know from past experience how generously you have responded with your time, commitment and generosity to various initiatives at diocesan and parish level. Once again I invite you to collaborate in this exciting project, in our Diocese, to participate in the mission of the Church, as we are all called to do through our baptism.

I end with a quote from our late Holy Father, John Paul II, from his message for this ‘Year of the Eucharist’, which ends in October with a Synod of Bishops in Rome, which I will have the privilege of attending.

In this passage, His late Holiness is urging local Churches to renewal and to a deepening of faith through new initiatives; ‘I do not ask, however, for anything extraordinary, but rather that every initiative be marked by a profound interiority. If the only result of this Year were the revival in all Christian communities of the celebration of Sunday Mass and an increase in Eucharistic worship outside Mass, this Year of grace would be abundantly successful. At the same time, it is good to aim high, and not to be content with mediocrity, since we know we can always count on God’s help.’

I pray every blessing upon you all, I wish you an enjoyable summer and I look forward to the fruits of our work together.