Four briefing sessions, led by Cardinal Brady and Bishop Clifford have been held in April 2008 with regard to the way ahead for parish reorganisation in the diocese. Two were for priests and two were for members of parish pastoral councils and others who had participated in the initial consultation process held between May and October 2007. The main elements of the plan were outlined by Fr Andrew McNally of the Office of Pastoral Renewal and Family Ministry. The need to work toward the clustering of parishes, the rationalisation of pastoral resources and the development of new parish structures and ministries was identified in a diocesan consultation process held in Lent 2005, leading to the development of the diocesan pastoral plan. As a part of its brief, the working team responsible for the development of parish pastoral councils, parish and diocesan surveys, attending to diocesan and parish structures, leadership and training, slowly and steadily responded to this need. The working team has done so with the support of the bishops and in consultation with priests and parish pastoral councils.
The plan proposes that the process of clustering the parishes in the diocese will happen between September 2008 and June 2009. By the end of June a map of the diocese will be published indicating which parishes are in which clusters. Clustering refers to the bringing together of two or more parishes for the purpose of sharing resources. Each parish will remain a separate entity with its own identity. This is to support priests and empower lay people in carrying on the mission of Christ in the locality and the world.
The plan proposes that rationalisation will happen between September 2009 and June 2010. It will be work done in clusters by people from each parish in the cluster, supported by the coordinators and finally approved by the Cardinal.
Rationalisation creates the opportunity to assess the needs of each parish in each cluster and the needs of the diocese. It enables decisions to be made with regard to such matters as:
- the number of priests to serve in each parish
- the resources to be allocated to the employment of lay leaders
- the churches to be used less often
- the number of Masses to be celebrated at the weekend and on weekdays
- the personnel needed to work at diocesan level
so that the diocese can carry on the mission of Christ.
By the end of June 2010 decisions will be published with regard to such matters such as how many priests will serve in each parish, what resources are to be allocated to the employment of lay leaders, what churches can be used less often, how many Masses are to be celebrated at the weekend and on weekdays.
The development of new parish structures and ministries will begin in earnest in September 2010 and continuing beyond June 2011. Each cluster will begin to form its new cluster pastoral council or leadership group (which will work along with and not in place of parish pastoral councils). The new ministries will be determined within each cluster as needs arise. New parish structures and ministries refers to the need to identify and provide for the development of new structures (for example, parish pastoral councils) and new ministries (for example, parish youth ministry and parish finance administrators) as the need emerges in the parishes, clusters and the diocese.
A number of supporting elements need to be addressed and implemented in order to ensure that clustering, rationalisation and the development of new parish structures and ministries are effective in serving the mission of Christ and the Church. These include:
- sustaining a fruitful prayer process
- establishing and maintaining pastoral councils in every parish in the diocese,
- developing a diocesan aim,
- initiating people into and training them for collaborative ministry based on a participative model of Church,
- ensuring that there is structured support for lay and ordained ministry
- assessing and supplying the necessary resources for parish reorganisation.
The parish reorganisation process will be launched with a communication from the Cardinal that will be brought to the attention of all parishes on the weekend of 13/14 September 2008.