MINISTRY AND CHANGE REPORT
Derry Diocese 2003
In this time of change within the church, we share many of the doubts and fears the Apostles had as they too faced the unknown. In facing this challenge, we call upon God for his blessing on us as we strive to spread the reign of his love.
In 1996, a committee was formed by the priests of the Diocese of Derry to look at the issue of change and how it would affect them. They were concerned about fewer vocations, fewer priests, later retirement and heavier workload.
This committee soon realised that change would affect every member of the Church. Each person would need an opportunity to discuss and share worries, fears, hopes and dreams relating to the future of the Church.
A process of consultation was begun. Up to one hundred and fifty people participated, and from this a Diocesan committee evolved.
This now comprises 11 laity, 1 priest and 2 religious.
Initially the committee spent time on clarifying an aim that they could work towards.
To assist the Diocese in positively engaging in the changing ministry in the Church.
Rooted in prayer and scripture and centred on Jesus Christ, we are aspiring as a Diocese to value all people as equal in dignity, and we are striving to become an inclusive church where laity, clergy and religious – in a spirit of respect, dialogue, shared responsibility, support for each other and reconciliation – are working together to realise the Kingdom of God on earth.
In our wish for change we want to remain faithful to the values of the Kingdom, which at times may be counter to the values of society. We are aware that as a Church we need to take into account the rate of change in society today.
Special attention will be given to communicating with youth, with people who are perceived to be outsiders, people not availing of the sacramental system within the church and people currently excluded from the sacraments.
Over the last five years the Ministry and Change Group has tried to stay faithful to the above aim and vision.
Occasionally, we have been discouraged at the apparent slowness of the pace of change and by an awareness of the enormity of the task. However, at this stage from the valuable experience we have gained and from what we have learnt, we wish to share the benefit of that experience.
1. The group felt that there is:
A feeling of uncertainty as to whether leadership within the life of the Church is ready to acknowledge the need for a renewal of its thinking in the area of Collaborative Ministry and the need to initiate a programme to implement it.
A lack of a long term Ministry plan at Diocesan level. This has presented a difficulty in regard to any planning to further the recommendations in this report.
2. There is apparent apathy among Church leadership and membership which
sometimes hinders the work of renewal and change.
3. The reality of the human weakness within the Church as seen in the issue of abuse has not resulted in a new approach to ministry, which we had hoped for.
1. A vision statement with excellent values and worthwhile objectives was drawn up.
2. The approach to working in the Ministry and Change Group, which was to value respect for one another, to share our experiences of faith using the word of God and to collaborate in all the tasks we engaged in, resulted in an enhanced sense of the need for a renewal of thinking in the area of Collaborative Ministry.
Processes and Methods of Work that We Found Helpful
* Group meetings (small groups and large groups)
* Outreach work in various parishes
* Use of external facilitators
* A Diocesan Conference on Collaborative Ministry
* Attendance at Conferences in other Dioceses
* Access to documentation on similar type work done by groups in this area of ministry.
* The compilation and distribution of a Ministry and Change Leaflet and
Prayer throughout the Parish Priests and Administrators of the Diocese
* Commissioning of group by the Bishop
* Distribution of Press releases
1. Recognition of the critical need for better communication within the Diocese at all levels.
Proposal: That Listening Days be arranged when the Bishop or a group delegated by the Diocese would visit a parish to hear the views of the parishioners to prioritise future diocesan policy.
Proposal: That Diocesan/Parish communication affecting the people of God be carried out in a setting that is respectful and caring of those who are primarily affected by the decision.
2. Recognition Of the urgent need for a renewal of Spiritual Life and Ministry, involving the sharing of responsibility by all the baptised.
Proposal: Education/Faith Formation for all members of the Church in the Church as Communion, the Church as People of God and a Spirituality of Ministry based on our common Baptismal dignity.
Proposal: That a sense of ownership of our Church by all its people be nurtured and that the task of leadership be seen to facilitate such ownership.
Proposal: That authority be seen not simply as the prerogative of any individual office holder but is given to the whole community listening to the Spirit.
3. Recognition and acknowledgement of the desire and readiness among many people for ministry relevant to today’s needs.
Proposal: That any ministry today focuses on promoting the values of the Kingdom of God (dignity, respect, equality, service etc.) That such ministry be sensitive to and appreciative of the many signs of the Kingdom that exist in today’s society – that its stance be one of encouragement.
4. Recognition of the urgent need for Parish and Diocesan structures that would ensure Collaborative Ministry and continuity in the life of the Parish.
Proposal: That Diocese/Parish put in place Diocesan/Parish Leadership Team with decision-making powers.
Proposal: That good group practice be exercised in Diocesan/Parish committees and that leaders be chosen on the basis of giftedness and ability.
5. Recognition of the critical need for a Diocesan Pastoral Plan to help achieve the above objectives.