ACI Press Release: Pilot Study Highlights lack of Lay Leadership in Parishes

Nov 25, 2019 | 2 comments

ACI pilot study highlights serious concern about active lay involvement in parishes and calls on the Irish bishops to commission a countrywide survey to identify the key issues prior to holding a national synod to discern the way forward for the church.

The Association of Catholics in Ireland (ACI) has carried out a pilot study among members to explore the extent of lay leadership in the Catholic Church and the role that the laity plays in parish leadership. The pilot study enquired into the role of pastoral councils; the prevalence of adult faith formation; the extent of family catechesis; and the source of and the reading of the Prayers of the Faithful at Masses.

Report: ACI Exploratory Pilot Study of Lay Involvement

The study was conducted on an all-island basis across 36 parishes. Highlights include: 67% had parish pastoral councils but 54% regarded them as ineffective; only 41% had adult faith development activities, though limited; 50% reported no encouragement for family catechesis; only 52% had lay-led prayer services in the absence of a priest; lay parishioners prepared the Prayers of the Faithful for Mass in only 17% of parishes but were read by laity in 54% of parishes.

ACI calls on the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference to commission a countrywide comprehensive professionally designed and administered survey with a view to identifying the key issues which will have to be addressed to ensure the survival of the Christian ethos in parishes across the country in the context of the diminishing numbers of priests and an ageing cohort of lay faithful attending church on a regular basis.

A full Diocesan Synod should be carried out in every Diocese across the country. The natural ‘next step’ would be to call a National Synod with the full involvement of the baptised lay faithful to discern a way forward which will seek to guide the church in Ireland in the years ahead, with the blessing and support of the Holy Spirit.

The Association of Catholics in Ireland (ACI) is committed to the pursuit of a reform and renewal agenda in the Irish Catholic Church based in the spirit of Vatican II. It is committed to helping to re-build (through words and deeds) a united Church based on the teachings of Jesus Christ – a Church that is inclusive, compassionate, accepts the equality of all believers by virtue of their baptism and acknowledges its failures.

For further information contact:  Anthony Neville 086 8112715 or Noel McCann 087 9274379.

ACI Submission to Conference of Irish Bishops – 01/10/2019


  1. Mark maguire

    We need our church clergy and laity to be fully trusting and open to the will and guidence of the Holy Spirit. For it is not our plan but God’s Plan. We are all called by virtue of our baptism to become living cells within the body of Christ The Church. Just as in the human body when each part is working in tandem it supports the bodies growth. Likewise when each member is allowed, enlightened and educated then our church The Body of Christ will grow and God’s kingdom will continue to spread. As each passing year goes by doing nothing our Church is fading away into insignificance. CLERGY AND LAITY WORKING TOGETHER IN GUINUINE COLLABORATION SHOWING FIDELITY TO THE HOLY SPIRIT is the only way we can continue to spread God’s kingdom in an effective way. Thus reflecting God light for all to see midst all the darkness of modern day society / culture. A light that offers everyone Hope, meaning, purpose, direction and fulfillment in their life. JESUS I TRUST In You.

  2. Gerry O'Hanlon, sj

    Many congratulations to the ACI for carrying out this Exploratory Pilot Study. The recommendation to the Episcopal Conference to commission a comprehensive, countrywide professionally designed and administered survey is spot-on, and should be part of the preparation for diocesan synods/assemblies, followed by a National Synod/Assembly. Such assemblies/synods need to become part of the regular life of the church, not just ‘one-off’ events. I think the recommendation of better communications between parishes re best practice is also very important: in my experience groups all over the country are grappling, sometimes quite effectively, with difficult issues, often in isolation and without any sense that other groups are similarly engaged.And, in relation to the need for family catchesis mentioned in the pilot study, I note the welcome initiative proposed by the Diocesan Council of Priests in Dublin and accepted by the Archbishop concerning sacramental preparation in the Archdiocese, with its focus, inter alia, on supporting parents in sharing faith with their children.


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