by Fr Martin Sirju, Vicar General
On Tuesday, January 16, the clergy of the archdiocese sat down at Curepe Parish Hall to discuss five topics proposed by a team put together by Archbishop Gordon to help chart a trajectory for his episcopate. These topics are:
Leadership in Church and Society
Clergy and Vocations
These topics did not emerge from thin air. They had a history. They first emerged at the Synod convened in 2003 when eight commissions were formed; they re-emerged with the three pastoral priorities: The New Evangelisation; Revitalising Catholic Culture and Identity; and Regenerating Moral and Spiritual Values.
They came up again in some form at a gathering of the clergy for a week at the Regional Seminary over two years ago. There, two metaphors emerged that described what a parish needs to be: a ‘net’ (inclusivity) or ‘people in communion’ (bonding). The latter had much greater support. We can therefore say ‘communion’ was the consensus.
At Curepe, the priests broke up into five groups and took one topic each after which they produced a statement of the challenge at hand. The aim was not to come up with solutions but to state as accurately as we could the issues before us. These statements will soon be available to the parishes.
Being statements of the problem at hand, they do not sound too positive. It therefore must be said that priests, in spite of great challenges, are happy in their ministry but not entirely fulfilled in the light of these problems. They are fully aware and feel the love and support of their parishioners, but they cannot cast aside the systemic issues staring them in the face.
Parishes are to gather, at least two representatives from each parish group, (as well as any other interested parishioner) at a date in Lent to be fixed by each parish, to discuss these five topics and come up with proposals or recommendations.
The five statements are there to guide the discussion, keep focus and facilitate outcomes. The statements may be tweaked if necessary. All proposals, comments, concerns will be tabled at a plenary session and then put together in a small document. This will then be referred to the archbishop and team to guide the next session of the clergy meeting at Curepe in April.
After this, guidelines or directives (roadmap) will be given to parishes as to what matters to address in the medium to long term. This roadmap would be available by June 2018.
The following methodology is to be used:
A date is to be fixed as soon as possible in Lent to discuss the five topics.
Each group is to have a facilitator to guide the discussion, keep watch on time, and ensure each person speaks; a scribe to take notes; and a presenter for the plenary session.
Persons are to cleave to the topic of their choice; if the group is too large it is to be broken up into smaller groups.
Persons are to use the statements at hand; they may suggest tweaking after the discussion.
The emphasis is not on finding solutions at this stage but to describe the problem/issue as accurately as possible.
Submissions are to be sent to the Regional Vicar by Saturday, March 24, who will in turn send to the archdiocesan guiding team the following week.
Parishes are to cater a simple meal for the occasion.
I urge parishioners to pray about this venture. We all know the inertia we feel about parish life sometimes. The hope of the archbishop is to take this forward and work with it over the next 3–5 years. By God’s grace we will see improvement.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, but we press forward with the hope that parish life will be more invigorating and more congruent with the needs of God’s people.