‘Lay involvement’ – is it happening in your parish?

May 23, 2019 | 6 comments

Images of lay people in prominent roles in Catholic liturgies in Ireland are still hard to find!

Who in your parish prepares and reads out the ‘Prayers of the Faithful’, heard after the Gospel and Homily at weekend Mass?

As the crisis of the Irish Catholic clergy becomes more intense, some bishops are sounding the alarm and calling for ‘co-responsibility’ – but we in ACI are also hearing that many priests are still making little attempt to prepare lay people for the greater responsibilities that must fall on us quite soon.

Trying to get a clear overview of this situation in Ireland, we in the ACI Steering Group are asking all members of ACI to report back to us on the progress of lay responsibility and activity in your own parish.

Our headline question above seems a good place to start. The Prayers of the Faithful were always intended to be the prayers of those attending Mass on that day – not prayers prepared just by the celebrant or chosen by him from some book or other source. If parishioners are not being trusted to prepare and then to read out these prayers at Mass, what does that tell us about the readiness of clergy to prepare their people for greater responsibility, for awareness of the meaning of scripture, and for change?

Other key questions:

  1. What happens in your parish if there is no priest to say a weekday Mass? Are there trained lay people ready to conduct a prayer service with Holy Communion in the absence of the priest? Or does everyone simply go, or stay at, home?
  2. Does your parish have a pastoral council that is working to prepare the parish for greater lay responsibility – e.g. to deal with the absence of a priest for weekday Mass?
  3. Does your priest speak of the need for adult faith development in this changing situation, or encourage this trend in any way – e.g. by facilitating opportunities for discussion of the encyclicals of Pope Francis (such as Laudato Si’ on our responsibility for the Environment, or Amoris Laetitia on the Family)?
  4. Does your priest ever speak of the need for Family Catechesis – i.e. the need for parents or grandparents to take greater responsibility for instructing children in the faith, now that we know that schools alone are not sufficient for this?

Please take the time to report back to us on as many of these questions as you can. We lay people must show that we are ready for the responsibilities that must fall to us soon if our Irish church is to renew itself and overcome this crisis. The ACI Steering Group needs to be in a position to inform the Irish Bishops Conference of the true state of affairs if ACI is to fulfil its potential for leadership in a situation that becomes more critical day-by-day.

Fortunately there are signs that some clergy and some religious orders are ready to assist us lay people to develop our own gifts for responding to change. Everything you tell us will empower us to advise such leaders – to hasten the emergence of a co-responsible Irish church at long last.

To respond, email us at info@acireland.ie or write to us at:

The Association of Catholics in Ireland, c/o 41 Woodcliffe Village, Howth, Co Dublin


  1. Mary Vallely

    I am glad to see the ACI taking on this initiative and I am working on my own responses to the survey. However, I believe that in many parishes people are happy with the status quo and there is a deep reluctance for lay people to volunteer to take on any more responsibilities. Perhaps that only applies to parishes where there is no shortage of priests and therefore of masses and where relationships between clergy and people are healthy.
    I know that our young curate would be willing to have the responsibility of preparing the Prayers of Intercession taken from him but there is no one, as far as I am aware, interested in taking on this task/mission. ( I have suggested he takes it up with his fellow priests around the dinner table and perhaps have it on the agenda of the next PPC meeting.) BTW in our parish it is always the priest or the Permanent Deacon who delivers these prayers except for weddings and funerals when those involved perform this mission very well.
    Anyway, I would be interested in reading about what other parishes do. Perhaps when we face the prospect of a real shortage of ordained personnel here then the laity might HAVE to think deeply about co-responsibility. This insidious disease of clericalism has a deep hold on us non-ordained too. I suppose it is human nature. Change is difficult and taxing and we have so many other things to do. Easier just to accept the status quo. Hope I am not being cynical but if I am, then do challenge me and let’s start a discussion!
    P.S. I dislike the term “laity” as in my mind I think of a doormat, something on which to lay one’s feet! Non- ordained is better though maybe it carries a negative tone? People is more fitting. The People. Hmm…

  2. Kevin Walters

    Taken from the link below. To the casual observer, the Catholic Church is beset by crises – of sex abuse, governance, purpose and mission. And beneath them all is an even deeper and more enduring one: imagination.

    Yes there is no imagination but
    Give me your hand and I will take you to another land
    Find a raindrop in the dewy grass, set yourself an impossible task
    Wear a sock upon your head
    Look inside an empty shoe, if you wish to see things anew
    Stand at school gate with ashen or blushing face
    Look high as your friends go by
    Letting your spirit run free, look not at him nor at me
    Now begin the race, but think not of the pace
    Let your heart flow in full flight
    Catching anything you might see , be it bird, ant or flea
    Holding back no thought as we dance free
    Now take the three of them, what can we do, look again inside your shoe
    There’s lots of room in there, but does the sock restrict your hair?
    Of course not, it’s not there,
    But where is it to be found, we’ll have to look around
    Ah! Look what the ants have found
    We’ll put it back inside the shoe, it will do for me, will it do for you?
    Our musical pen is dancing free, hopping from your heart to mine as jumping flea
    The bird is free, but he is you and also me
    But what is that you say, ‘he is not white but grey’, is that how you see the day?
    Take your pen (Heart) and make it white, see the wonder of reflected light
    This little ditty is doited fun, no thought was given but we could let it run and run.

    kevin your brother
    In Christ

  3. Kevin Walters

    1 OF 2: I have to agree with Mary that for many it is easier to accept the status quo as we the ‘laity’ have been led for generations as The Eucharist is the centre of Christian worship and by implication the priest is our ‘Focal Point’, as he is given a special charisma via ordination.

    To Peter “feed my flock” we will always need central direction (Leadership).

    The placename Emmaus is derived from “warm spring” – for me symbolic of the His Way (Journey) the encounter of ‘warm embrace’ previously manifest as “see how those Christians they love one and other”. So how do we encounter each other on the ‘Way’ in the market (Working) place of life, from the Tea Plantation to the Office as partaking of the ‘warm spring’ (Grace). Where are the working disciples?
    I have observed that the work ethic within Islam manifests a fraternity of mutual respect emanating from pray ritual.

    In the late fifties and early sixties I was aware of many Irishmen (Catholic) standing outside of Public houses waiting to be hired for work in the construction industry. The custom was to congregate at about 7-30 am and wait to be hired for the day – I know this because on a few occasions I had participated in this ‘ritual’. At the end of the day we would be dropped off at the pick-up point, possible by design, as it guaranteed the landlord of the pub a roaring trade, but sadly for some would lead to a dissipated life style as in alcoholism etc. It most certainly did not foster spiritual enlightenment/growth, as the structures within the prayer ritual of our Moslem brothers do.

    In the early sixties I worked for several months in Brussels, On one occasion, while working on a large country house, on the outskirts of the city I encountered other workers
    (Staff), working as gardeners etc, amongst them were a few Asians. To my surprise at lunchtime three Asians rolled out small coloured mats in the same direction, knelt on them and began chanting and bowing I didn’t know what to make of it. (Continued)

  4. Kevin Walters

    2 of 2: Later that week an outside contractor arrived with around a dozen extra workers mainly Asians. You could not help but notice that there was a genuine fraternity (Warm embrace) of brotherly love between them, as some of the new group acknowledged each other; others introduced themselves to each other with such happiness and generosity. To my surprise at lunchtime, the whole group in harmony all appeared together with small mats and began their pray ritual their actions left a deep imprint on me.

    Of course I now know that they were Muslims, their prayer ritual (Belief) held them together
    in Unity of Purpose. I worked there for just over a week and I was unable to ascertain who was in charge, as they all showed such genuine respect for one and other.

    So should we not learn from them and also incorporate ‘ritual’ while manifesting our Unity of Purpose also?

    Food for thought: ‘The Emmaus encounter’ incorporates ‘joyous living’ in sharing (breaking) the Bread (Sustenance) of Life publicly, but not the Wine (Blood) suffering of full (Confirmed) discipleship (Focal point) of His Way.

    It is said that “The grace of Confirmation, properly administered, is real, but the recipient has to be properly disposed to receive it”

    And for this reason I believe that The Sacrament of Confirmation should only be conferred on Mature Christians, those capable of discerning the ‘full’ implication /calling/reality of His ‘Way’ of life. While praying not to be led/put to the Test, rather “but deliver us from evil”.

    “For the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak”

    kevin your brother
    In Christ


      Kevin, I strongly agree with your point about Confirmation not being given to children but rather to those with the age and maturity to make the decision for themselves. An elderly priest friend told me that many clergy call Confirmation for school pupils The Sacrament of Exit from the Church.

      • Kevin Walters

        Thank you, Aidan for your comment.

        I suppose the present situation within the Church can be seen/understood in these words of St Paul who repeatedly chides various churches for “needing to be fed milk when they should be eating meat.”

        And this meat should be understood as in

        Ephesians 6:12. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this world’s darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm.

        Please consider continuing via the link.


        From my perspective only a new spiritual awakening within the Church (that is, one that serves the Truth, in humility, in all situations) will lead and capture the idealism within the minds and hearts of the young (and others) – as hypocrisy breeds contempt.

        kevin your brother
        In Christ


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