25 July 2023, The Tablet

New model needed for pastoral ministry, says bishop

New model needed for pastoral ministry, says bishop

The diocese of Clogher must move from a clergy-dependent model, based almost solely on sacramental provision, to a model that allows effective and meaningful co-responsibility, Bishop Larry Duffy has said.

In a new pastoral letter titled, “Our Baptism Calls us to Serve in New Ways”, the Bishop of Clogher highlighted the challenges ahead for the Irish diocese.

As just one priest is likely to be ordained in the next seven years and projections suggest that in less than 20 years there will be fewer than 10 priests covering the 85 churches, “These facts alone will mean less Masses,” he stressed.

These challenges recently emerged at a day-long review in Monaghan in June when clergy and lay people came together to look at where the Clogher is headed over the next two decades.

The research findings made for a “very sobering reflection,” Bishop Duffy acknowledged. “We need priests! Without priests we cannot have the Eucharist or the Sacraments of Reconciliation or Anointing,” he underlined.

Clogher, he said, was far too dependent on priests for not just pastoral care but for administration, property maintenance, planning and governance of parishes.

“The pressures on the wellbeing of clergy cannot be ignored” and must be a “priority area”, while the configuration of parish groupings will have to be done in such a way as to provide effective pastoral outreach that “respects new forms of ministry, the care and wellbeing of clergy and local circumstances.”

Bishop Duffy said he was establishing a diocesan group, consisting primarily of lay people, which would plan and guide Clogher into the future.

Inviting people to get involved, he highlighted the ministries of Lector, Acolyte and Catechist which are open to lay women and men.

“The truth is that we cannot continue to operate and provide pastoral ministry in the same way as we do now or as we did in the past. We have to look at a whole new model,” he said.  

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