Pope Francis has hope and enthusiasm for the future of the Church. The challenge that emerged from this meeting is the responsibility each person has to spread the hope of the Good News, although we are bogged down in an institution shrouded in secrecy and governed by control and power.
‘There is no such thing as a lay person’ said Fr. Enda Lyons. We are all disciples of Jesus. Fr. Pat Donnellan echoed this ‘You cannot do it all alone’. We must work together – parishioners, priests and bishops. This will happen when we listen to one another, even when we do not share or agree with other people’s views.
For some of the participants, this was a new experience – being listened to and listening to others expressing diverse views and opinions. The meeting had plenty of priests. Although our church leaders were invited, only four bishops responded and none sent representatives.
Pope Francis wants us to move from small-mindedness into a church where the marginalised are welcome. Jesus enjoyed the company of social rejects, but, Monica Morley told us, our church has sometimes become a club for a certain type of Catholic. This is not the sort of church we want. Many people are hurt and angry. The lack of consultation leaves people feeling their roles are ineffective and priests feeling unheard. The new missal makes little sense. Priests have heavier workloads and are unhappy about the treatment of colleagues. Pope Francis wants the Church to be a welcoming home. We are adults wanting adult membership of an open and dialoguing church resonating with the dream of Pope Francis.
Apathy is the disease, Monica told us. A lack of engagement with little interest in meaningful involvement. However, her work in the Family Centre at Knock, and her Mid-West programme ‘Faith Alive’ show her there is also hope and optimism. Jesus becomes a tangible presence and we must avoid allowing the wrongs of the past to overwhelm us.
Monica challenged us – are you focussed on Christ? Living our Faith is central to spreading the Good News we want to give to our children.
Following the Speakers was a lively session with many diverse comments. A frequently raised issue was the desire for adult education encouraging dialogue and discussion. Other issues were concerns over the inferior role of women, clustering of parishes, enforced celibacy for priests. We must break down the barriers of secrecy and power that impede the fruitful living of the Gospel.
Concern was expressed for the silenced priests and especially Fr. Tony Flannery who is so well known. The evident cruelty in the Vatican’s dealings with them is not in tune with the Pope’s call for diversity. These issues should be resolved locally. The participants wanted letters written to the superiors enquiring about progress in reinstating the priests to full ministry.
Although the event was not connected to the Association of Catholics in Ireland, the founder, Noel McCann attended. He assured us that the same issues were raised in meetings in Galway, Limerick and Cork.
Enthusiasm was expressed for a local ACI group, whilst others questioned the value of talking and listening. We are adult members of a church defined by power and control. We want collaboration with the bishops. We are a community church and there is value in meeting and expressing views and listening to others. The Holy Spirit is working and let us not allow the Good News to be strangled through apathy and fear.
Download Poster: Tuam Poster for 12th October 2013