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Getting the Church out of the Valley of Dry Bones

Lara Pickford-Gordon

“If we want to renew the life of the Church and get out of this valley of dry bones, we have to be experts at prayer,” Fr Sirju said. The Vicar General challenged the Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR) to establish “prayer hotlines” in all parishes because “people want prayer, they want to learn how to pray and they want you to pray for them”.

He was delivering the opening address at the 44th annual Catholic Charismatic Renewal rally at the Centre of Excellence, Macoya. The theme was: Son of man, can these bones live (Ez 37:3).  He mentioned the late Archbishop Anthony Pantin as a good example of a strong prayer life.

Fr Sirju related that a female Catholic from Princes Town told him attending Mass was like going to the cinema and seeing the same movie every time. “This is what happens when people come to church and they do not develop a life of prayer,” Fr Sirju said. The need to create a better atmosphere of prayer was one of the areas identified as he spoke of the “dry bones” of present-day church. He highlighted lack of hospitality, loss of a sense of sacred space, “what they do on the outside, they do on the inside”; dwindling Catholic population and sharp increase in the “nones”—persons not affiliated with any religion.

Reiterating opinions made in ‘Things Fall Apart’ a four-part series in the Catholic News March–April, Fr Sirju said the Church was in significant ruin and suffering “an institutional crisis” and “crisis of memory, we no longer know who we are”.

Many Catholics seem to have lost a “palpable sense” of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist or in the church. Fr Sirju said some individuals received Holy Communion as if they were receiving snacks. “I can see from the body language people do not understand what they are receiving. I am not saying these are bad people…they have very little knowledge and very little formation”.

Alluding to comments made by a Pentecostal pastor in the documentary ‘Exodus’ on CNC 3 that his church at MovieTowne offered a direct relationship with Jesus without intervening “structures”, Fr Sirju said, “It seems as if all our rituals, practices and devotions, people seem as if they don’t want that.”  The challenge was how to renew the sacramental infrastructure to make them relevant for today.

He recapped the development of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan and priority areas for action.  Fr Sirju dealt briefly with the impact good preaching and content can have in “giving flesh and sinews and muscles to the dry bones” in parishes.

Drawing attention to the Trinity Sunday observance he said modern writings on the Trinity have stated it was “about relationships”.  Fr Sirju told attendees the Triune God is a reminder “if we want to renew the Church and turn that valley of dry bones into life, we have to value relationships”. Even as he saw a Church in “crisis” the Vicar General stressed “opportunity”, “openness” and possibility of “a very creative moment”. In facing dry bones, he reminded the faithful what might be impossible for man is not for God.