Bishop Donal McKeown (pictured) has invited parishioners across the Diocese of Down & Connor to participate in a series of parish consultation sessions as part of the ‘Pathways for the Future’ initiative which will examine, reflect upon and plan for the future mission, structures and priorities for the Diocese over the years ahead.
In his recent pastoral letter, Bishop McKeown said, “Saint Paul, writing to guide, strengthen and support the growing Christian community in Ephesus, encouraged them all to reflect together on the nature of the Church, its various ministries and gifts, and to creatively consider how every individual could play their essential, unique and important part to grow and build up the Body of Christ. The prophetic words of Saint Paul take on added significance for us, the followers of Jesus within the Diocese of Down & Connor, as we continue our synodal journey of discernment to identify and meet the ever changing sacramental and pastoral needs of parishioners and society in our time.”
In the weeks that follow, the ‘Pathways to the Future’ initiative will examine the mission, structures and priorities of the Diocese of Down & Connor for the years ahead. This process will involve a series of parochial information and consultation sessions across the diocese. In these, parishioners will be encouraged to share personal hopes and dreams for the local Church in order to imagine a future that will be fit for purpose.
Bishop McKeown, who is Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Down & Connor, said, “confronting this new reality will necessarily involve words to disturb the comfortable as we explore the restructuring of parishes, the development of new ministries and consider new ways to meet the increasing pastoral and sacramental needs. Change will be inevitable.
“At the same time, it is also important to speak words that will bring comfort to the disturbed. The Church will continue to support the faith development of all and provide for the needs of parishioners in the abiding truth that God is with his people.
“This is an exciting time to be Church in Down and Connor and in the world. The world faces many challenges – poverty, climatic change and the threat of war. Now, as in Jesus’ time, many people are harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd (Mt 9:36),” he said.
In the weeks and months ahead, parishioners will engage in Christian dialogue and conversations in the context of the ‘Pathways to the Future’ initiative, as we seek together to listen to one another, to embrace the truth in love and to discern new ways to be ministers of mercy in our day.
Bishop McKeown continued, “During our process, I encourage everyone to pay attention to the signs of our times and to the concerns of our world, so that we can truly be missionary voices of hope to all. The Church needs to hear your voice. The Church needs each person to speak the truth in love. We need to embrace the challenges and we need voices of hope. Share your dreams and aspirations, your cares and concerns. Let us embark on our diocesan ‘Pathways to the Future’ with realism, joy and hope and may God bless us all on our journey together.”