Address given by
Most Rev. Gerard Clifford, Auxiliary Bishop of Armagh
The reading from the Acts of the Apostles captures the enthusiasm of the first disciples after Pentecost.
We are told;
“they devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer”.
For generations those tasks have been the focus and inspirations for evangelisation and renewal in the Church throughout the world. In our own day it has been captured in vision and mission statements, all of them helping us “to know Christ Jesus” and to make his life and work the inspiration of our own ministry.
For almost forty years that has been the inspiration of the Mount Oliver Catechetical Centre in its various forms as centre of renewal, as catechetical centre, pastoral centre and since 1992 the Armagh Diocesan Pastoral Centre. For most of those years the work was based at Mount Oliver Franciscan Convent. Today we give thanks to the Franciscan community for the welcome extended to us over nearly forty years. Today marks the opening of our new base and a new chapter in the life of the Diocesan Pastoral Centre. It also marks the opening of a new chapter in the life of the Archdiocese of Armagh.
The opening of this centre happily coincides with the second phase of our diocesan pastoral plan. That plan originated some three years ago through the Diocesan Assemblies of Priests held in Donegal year after year. The plan involved considerable consultation and new opportunities for pastoral renewal in the life and work of laity, religious and priests for the foreseeable future. Happily that work continues to thrive through the sub-groups set up more than three years ago. I believe we now enter a whole new phase in renewal and restructuring of pastoral outreach at parish and diocesan level. The work already in place and continuing will help bring renewal and planning for the future to a new level.
I am confident that the structures already in place will give new energy and direction to the work of renewal. In recent years Sr Rhoda and her team have done enormous good work through the Rainbows, the Beginning programmes, the preparation for marriage and outreach through the counselling programmes set up to assist individuals and families in the diocese. The work of pastoral renewal and family ministry will continue under the direction of Fr. Andy McNally and with Mr Tony Hanna the implementation of the diocesan pastoral plan will hopefully bring new energy to the work of restructuring and supporting new pastoral initiatives at parish and diocesan level. The foundation for that work has been put in place by the nine groups already involved in the diocese viz. Faith development, youth ministry, safeguarding children, liturgical renewal, prayer and spirituality, the role of women in the life of the Church, ecumenical outreach and the care of priest in ministry and in retirement. This work is enhanced with the outreach of the Biblical Initiative and the vocations commission based here at the centre. All of them are making an enormous contribution to the future of our diocese.
Today we thank God for all of that and we pray that in the spirit of those first disciples our work of bringing the Good News of God’s love and care for all will continue to blossom and to grow.
In the words of St. John’s Gospel;
We pray “that all may be one, so that the world may believe”. That is our aim. That is our hope. That is the inspiration of our work together. That is the inspiration behind our new pastoral centre. I wish God’s blessing on all involved in that work.