Moving Church from maintenance to mission

maintenance to mission

The Catholic Church in Ireland is “moving from maintenance to mission” and needs to renew and refresh itself, Archbishop Eamon Martin says.

Martin made the comment after attending Ireland’s national pre-synodal assembly this week.

“The question is — what next?

“We are still not entirely certain, but we are open to what the Holy Spirit might be saying and to a quiet and gentle renewal of the faith. We are moving from maintenance to mission.

“In order to make space for something new, we have to accept that there is no point in trying to maintain a particular form of the life of the Church which was for a different time.”

The facts are clear. In 2016, people identifying as Catholic in Ireland made up 78.3 percent of the population (approximately 3.7 million people), down from 84.2 percent in the 2011 census. It’s predicted the 2022 census will show a further decline.

Ireland also has an ageing clergy and few vocations to the diocesan priesthood or religious life.

Martin noted the past year’s synodal conversation with people all over Ireland culminated in the assembly, which was a moment to hear the fruits of that conversation.

“One of the things that is coming across is the (pre-)synodal conversations – an awful lot of people are very passionate about their faith in Jesus Christ … with the Church. But they want the church to be open to something different,” he says.

There are some big barriers to renewal though.

Feedback to the assembly revealed “a despair among a lot of our young people, a lack of hope, and a lack of a sense of purpose” and at the same time “a belief in faith, in hope and in love”. This is “what we are trying to rekindle in the life of the Church,” Martin says.

His confrere, Archbishop Dermot Farrell, says clerical sexual abuse had irreparably damaged the church’s reputation in Ireland. This could spell the end for Catholicism in Ireland if major changes were not implemented within the church, he warned.

He said evidence of Christian belief in Ireland today “has, for all intents and purposes, vanished” and this “underlying crisis of faith was particularly acute among the younger generations”. He added, “The current model of the church is unsustainable”.

Martin has a more hopeful view.

“We are moving into a new period of evangelisation, recognising that many people – even those who have been baptised in the faith – perhaps don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus, don’t have a personal sense of God, and indeed maybe don’t have a sense of direction in their lives,” he says.

“We are trying to find new ways of communicating the joy of the Gospel, which is very much a theme that Pope Francis has been revealing to the Church during his pontificate.”

He stresses the importance of reaching out to young people who “are living in a very different space,” suggesting the Church play an important pastoral role among an increasingly disaffected youth.


Additional reading

News category: Great reads, World.

Tags: , , , , , ,