On 12 July 2009 the new pastoral areas of the
Armagh diocese came into effect. This map is the outcome of huge
consultation and reflection by all of the Catholic faithful within the
archdiocese. It is the end result of a very detailed and comprehensive
engagement that began three years ago with consultations with all of
the priests and the pastoral councils within the diocese. In a letter
to the people of the diocese, Cardinal Brady said:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ

mapping of the newly formed pastoral areas of the diocese has arisen
out of a tremendous amount of participation, discussion, considering,
questioning, listening, challenging compromising and deliberating.  It
has  truly been a diocesan exercise that included the engagement of
people young and old, priests, religious and bishops.  I am personally
delighted that, as a diocese, we spent the time and energy grappling
with questions about the make up of the pastoral areas.

Some say
it would have been easier for me to have appointed a small committee to
draw up the map.  My response is that it would have been a lot less
valuable.  What we have achieved by holding a meeting in each parish
before Christmas and a meeting in each parish during Lent as well as
meetings of priests, religious and school students has been priceless.
We have:

•    created a map based generally on the wisdom of the people of our diocese;
•    raised awareness in all parishes  of the creation of the pastoral areas;
•    experienced the generosity of people in every parish in their engagement in the meetings;
•    witnessed the dignity and respectfulness of parishioners in
expressing their views, their hopes, doubts, frustrations, dissent and
•    had an opportunity to hear people’s real concerns and anxieties.

whole-heartedly thank everyone for your contribution to the
conversation that has led to the drawing up of this map of the pastoral
areas of the diocese.
It is important for all of us acknowledge and
recognise that while some parishes will be very happy with the final
outcome and others somewhat satisfied, still some other parishes will
be disappointed.  To those of you who did not get what you most wanted
I wish to assure you that we have listened to you.  However, in the
wider interests of the whole diocese we  have had to make arrangements
different to what you proposed.  Expressions of disappointment are as
valid as expressions of satisfaction.  Importantly it reminds us that
as parishes in the diocese we belong to one community. We are
responsible to each other.  At the root of disappointment is a valid
concern.  Sometimes, for example, there is a concern of being swallowed
up in a larger reality.  Our task is one of strengthening each of the
parishes in our diocese and we do that by affirming each other and
supporting each other.

Having participated in the creation of
the new pastoral areas, sharing your views and ideas, hopes and fears,
joys and disappointments I invites all of us to move forward together
to embody the Spirit of Jesus in our time and place.  The question that
now presents itself to us in our pastoral areas and in our diocese is:
what can we create together that we cannot create alone?

to exploring this question is the formation of people for pastoral
leadership at the pastoral area level and the creation and formation of
pastoral area councils.   This will now be our focus over the next year
before addressing resource questions.

May the saints of our diocese encourage us along the way.

Yours in Christ.