In his role as Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Down and Connor, Bishop Donal McKeown has published a new pastoral letter entitled Be part of God’s Amazing Dream, ahead of the Feast of Pentecost on this Sunday 28 May. The Diocese of Down and Connor, which covers County Antrim, the greater part of County Down and part of County Derry, is the second largest diocese on the island of Ireland after the Archdiocese of Dublin in terms of Catholic population.
In his pastoral letter, Bishop McKeown invites clergy and parishioners across the diocese to participate in the Pathways to the Future initiative which is a planning process established to discern the mission, structures and priorities of the Diocese of Down and Connor for the next twenty tears. The initiative is led by a steering group comprised of clergy and lay people from across the diocese. The process will explore new approaches to lay ministry and lay-led services, including lay women and men helping families prepare for funerals and leading the prayers at gravesides or the crematoria.
Bishop McKeown said “Living in a time of major change, God is calling us all to play our part in building a loving, welcoming, and inclusive community of faith. We must prayerfully discern together how, from our common baptism, all the people of God can play a greater and more active role in the life and leadership of the Diocese and parish communities. In this time of transition, leading to rebirth and renewal, there are certainly challenges to be faced. It will be necessary to adapt how priests, who are already having to manage workloads and demands that are unreasonable and not sustainable, are supported and cared for.
“We need to look at how parishes are structured, how liturgical services are celebrated, and how all the lay faithful can work together in the service of God and each other. Greater collaboration between parishes will be necessary in a future where one priest will be responsible for a group or ‘family’ of parishes. Across the diocese, it will be necessary to reflect seriously upon new ways of being parish and celebrating faith. This is a time to critically consider the role that each one of us can play in the life of the Church to meet the ongoing pastoral and sacramental needs of all.
“This is an exciting time to be Church in Down and Connor. We can choose to stay locked in the upper room of our fears, nourishing one another with sad tales of past glories. Or we can pray together and discern where God is calling us to walk, despite our limited courage. Together, we are called by God to respond to the challenges which confront us at this time. Together, we can renew and rebuild the Church. Together, we can become part of God’s amazing dream for ourselves and for the whole of creation,” Bishop McKeown said.
To read the full version of Bishop Donal McKeown’s Pastoral Letter for the Feast of Pentecost click here.