Cardinal Brady launches Diocesan Pastoral Plan for the Archdiocese of Armagh:

“Strengthening Parishes in the 21st Century”
Monday 3 November 2008 – Feast of St Malachy

“It is important that we strengthen our parishes so that they can proclaim the Word of God, carry on the mission of Christ and respond to pastoral needs.
” –  Cardinal Brady

Cardinal Seán Brady, the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland today, [Monday 3 November] the Feast of St Malachy, launched a process for strengthening parishes in the Archdiocese.  The objective is to sustain parishes as vibrant faith communities for the 21st century.  The launch took place at a press conference in the Synod Hall of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh.  A Pastoral Letter detailing this initiative was made available at all the Masses in the diocese over the weekend.

The process has three steps which will be implemented over the next three years.  Fr Andrew McNally and Dr Tony Hanna of the Diocesan Pastoral Council are coordinating and overseeing the design and implementation of this Parish Re-organization Plan.  The faithful are invited to contribute to the process and will be consulted throughout.

The first step in the process will be the clustering of parishes for the purpose of sharing resources. This does not mean the amalgamating of parishes.  There will be a meeting in each parish before Christmas and again in Lent to determine which parishes will cluster and how many parishes there will be in each cluster.  Importantly each parish will maintain its own unique identity.

The second step will be to assess the resources that each cluster has and the resources each cluster needs.  This will happen between September 2009 and June 2010.  As a part of this work we will address such matters as:

  • how many priests are to serve in each parish in the cluster;
  • what resources are to be allocated to the employment of lay leaders in the cluster;
  • the number of Masses to be celebrated at the weekend and on weekdays in each Church in the cluster.

A third step, beginning in September 2010, will be to develop and create new parish structures and ministries that will enable the parishes to continue to function and develop as vibrant Christian communities.  Some of these ministries might include the employment of lay people to administrative or pastoral roles within a cluster.  Some of the structures might include the establishment of a pastoral co-ordination council for the cluster.

These new parish structures and ministries will enable the parishes to grow as communities of worship, witness, outreach and faith.  They will encourage parishioners to continue Christ’s mission in the community, society and the world.

While the goal of this process is the strengthening of parishes, the process announced today is a response to rapidly changing times.  Influencing factors include the declining number of priests, the decline in Sunday Mass attendance, a revitalised appreciation of the role all the baptised in the life of the Church and the importance of ensuring that the Eucharist is fittingly celebrated in every parish every weekend.

Speaking at the launch Cardinal Brady said: “At the recent Synod in Rome the Church was referred to as the House of the Word of God.  We can say therefore that the parish is the house of the Word of God.  It is in the parish that we mostly hear the word of God and it is the parish community that has the task of proclaiming the Word of God.  It is important therefore that we strengthen our parishes so that they can proclaim the Word of God, carry on the mission of Christ and respond to pastoral needs.

“There are, I think, a number of factors that lead us to move towards the clustering of parishes and the development of new parish structures and ministries at this time.  Not least is the simple fact that we live in rapidly changing times and every organisation has to adapt to change.  The Church too has to adapt and changes so that it can more effectively carry on the mission of Christ.  It is our love for Christ, the Word of God, which inspires us to face the challenges that changing times demand.”

Cardinal Brady concluded by saying: “The Archdiocese of Armagh is a communion of faith communities, which are committed to each other.  As we embark on this process of renewing our structures we will rely on this spirituality of communion among all of us to strengthen our parishes as vibrant faith communities in this 21st century.  I ask the faithful to pray to the Holy Spirit to guide as we work through this important task.”