Sunday 18th June Week 6
In St Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus tells His disciples that “the harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to the harvest”. We must continue to ask God for more vocations to the priesthood and religious life, but we must also recognise that we all have a calling from God and through our Baptism, we have received the gifts or charisms of the Holy Spirit to equip us to fulfil it.
In the coming months, we will begin to establish our new Families of Parishes across the Diocese. These are not simply parish structures, but are communities of faith where all, lay and ordained, work together to serve God and to serve, love, and care for each other. The new Families will be asking people to come forward to be trained and commissioned in a range of ministries such as catechesis, youth ministry and funeral ministry. Volunteers will be needed to help with management and administration. Liturgy teams will be needed to plan and organise prayer services and celebrations. Parish Families will need Readers, Eucharistic Ministers, altar servers, musicians, and so much more.
As we begin the process of renewal that Bishop McKeown spoke of at Pentecost, and as we plan for the practical changes that this will entail, we invite you to take time to pray and reflect on what this will mean for you personally. What role could you play? How will you use your Baptismal gifts for the glory of God and the love of others? How will you respond to God’s call for you?
Sunday 11th June Week 5
This weekend we celebrate Corpus Christi, a solemnity of the Church that allows us to reflect on the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. One of the early Church Fathers, St John Chrysostom, understood how the Eucharist draws the whole Church together. “What is the Bread actually? The Body of Christ. What do communicants become? The Body of Christ! Just as the bread comes from many grains, which remain themselves and are not distinguished from one another because they are united, so we are united with Christ.”
St Paul teaches us that Christ is the head of the Church and we are the body, which is made up of many parts that work together. He’s saying that we all have unique roles in the Church and as lay men and women, religious and priests we are called to work together. This is the vision of our Pathways to the Future programme too.
When we come to Mass we are one family of God’s people. When we leave we carry Christ with us and we bring him out into the world. As we celebrate Corpus Christi, may we be strengthened and nourished by the Eucharist we receive to go out and serve God and his people.
Sunday 4th June Week 4
Last weekend Bishop Donal McKeown wrote to us about the possibilities and challenge facing the Church in Down & Connor in the years ahead. His letter certainly got attention – particularly where he talked about the difficult decisions and sacrifices, we have to make as congregations get smaller and the number of priests fall.
But that’s not the whole story by any means! We believe in the Good News of Jesus Christ, and there is always good news in the Church. In the pastoral letter a vision is set out of a Church which faces up to the profound changes we’re living through, that seeks to go out and make new disciples, and which welcomes everyone into a relationship with God. This is a courageous vision that will require us to look at how we are structured as a church. The Pathways to the Future Committee are developing ideas on how we can collaborate across our parishes as Families of Parishes.
In families of parishes, we will see a new range of ministries develop in which lay people will play a crucial role. If we want to pass on the faith to the next generation, to see our congregations grow again, to see Catholics making a real difference in the community and to nourish new vocations to religious life, we have to do things differently – and we all have a part to play! On Trinity Sunday, may the Father, Son and Holy Spirit bless us as we take the first steps on our pathway to the future.
To find out more we encourage you to read Bishop Donal McKeown’s Pastoral Letter under Latest News
Sunday 28th May Week 3
This weekend we celebrate the great feast of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came down upon the apostles. In an instant a group of frightened disciples were empowered to go out and proclaim God’s amazing dream for the world – the Good News of Jesus Christ!
When we read about Pentecost and the birth of the Church in the Acts of the Apostles, we find inspiration for where we are as a Church here in Ireland today. We know that we have come to a fork in the road. We can’t keep going the way we were, we have to head out on a new pathway.
In Down & Connor the Pathways to the Future project is charting the next steps on this journey. We have to be realistic – change is inevitable. There will be new ways of working in our parishes and communities. But this isn’t something to be afraid of. God still has a dream for our Church. He wants us to be filled with the Spirit and willing to go out and share the Gospel with others. He wants us to be generous, loving and inclusive, welcoming everyone into his family. And he wants us to be confident that each of us – lay women and men, clergy and religious – has a part to play in renewing our parishes, the diocese and building up the Kingdom of God.
To find out more we encourage you to read Bishop Donal McKeown’s Pastoral below:
Sunday 21st May Week 2
In the Gospel this Sunday we hear the mission that Jesus gives his Church – “Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations.” And that is still our mission today. Here in Down and Connor, our Pathways to the Future programme has been set up to help us go out, make disciples and share the love of Christ more effectively in the coming years.
One initial task is the count of Mass attendance which is happening across the diocese this weekend. On a practical level this helps us to get an accurate snapshot of who is connecting with our local parishes at this time. But it also encourages us to reflect about who isn’t coming and how we might go out and share the Gospel with them.
That might seem a daunting task and it will mean doing some things differently in the future. But if we work together as a whole Church – lay people, religious and clergy, guided by the Holy Spirit – God promises that our efforts will be fruitful. Let’s pray for the courage and imagination to go out and make disciples here in Down and Connor.
Sunday 14th May Week 1
As a Church we are called to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ and share his love in the world. But we realise that our current way of doing things is getting more difficult to sustain. With smaller congregations and fewer priests we have to find new ways to ensure that the mission of the Church can be carried out in the future.
For this reason our Diocese of Down and Connor is undertaking a major programme of change called Pathways to the Future. It will look at the priorities and structures of the Church to see how we can best serve our 86 parishes and other ministries over the next twenty years.
A steering team of lay people and clergy has been preparing for this work in recent months and representatives of every parish have taken part in initial conversations. In the coming months we all have a chance to find out more and play our part. One important task is to collect accurate information and for that reason a census of Mass attendance across the diocese will be taken up next week.
This is a time of rebuilding and renewal for our diocese and we set off on the pathway confident that the Holy Spirit, sent to us by the Father, will guide us on our journey together. Please keep this project in your prayers!