Ireland’s Catholic Church prepares for a new era

new era

Catholics in Dublin are facing a new era where lay members of the community will be leading liturgies formerly conducted by priests.

It’s just a matter of time before they’ll be conducting funerals, marriages and baptisms in the Dublin archdiocese and elsewhere, a diocesan spokesman says.

They’ll be doing everything but celebrating the Mass and blessing the Sacraments. Priests will continue to be responsible for those rites.

The Catholic Church in Ireland has for some time been exploring ways to involve further lay Catholics in the Church.

Dublin’s Catholic Archdiocese currently has nine full-time lay parish pastoral workers working in ministry, 30-plus permanent deacons, mostly married men.

“I think

the Lord is probably saying to us

at this time:

‘I don’t want you

to keep doing

the things that you were doing

100 years ago,

200 years ago’.”

Last June, Archbishop of Dublin Dermot Farrell invited “women and men who feel that they are called to ministry to come forward to train as instituted lectors, acolytes and catechists.

“These are lay ministers, women and men, who are publicly recognised by the Church and appointed by the diocese to minister alongside priests and deacons in leading liturgies, supporting adult faith formation and accompanying families preparing for the sacraments.

“It is my pastoral responsibility as Bishop to do this – for the sake of the gospel and for the sake of the People of God,” he said.

Farrell has been expressing this view since his instalment as Archbishop in 2021.

His mission was to “downsize” – in consultation with the Catholics of Dublin, lay and clerical.

It would be about “talking to the people, it’s talking to the priests, listening. These are their churches, their faith communities”.

Also on his day of installation, Farrell noted the archdiocese included 197 parishes served by 350 active priests with an average age of 70.

“So more and more lay people are going to have to take responsibility in terms of the leadership that’s provided at parish level,” he said.

“We won’t be able to celebrate Sunday Mass in every church in every parish in this diocese.

“I think the Lord is probably saying to us at this time: ‘I don’t want you to keep doing the things that you were doing 100 years ago, 200 years ago’.”

He then set up the ‘Building Hope’ taskforce to assess the needs of the people of the archdiocese.

The taskforce found Christian belief in Ireland had “for all intents and purposes vanished”.

This “underlying crisis of faith” was “particularly acute among the younger generations,” Farrell said.

“The challenges facing me are pretty clear. We have an ageing clergy and very few vocations … and a major decline in the number of people who actively practice and live their faith.”

Dublin especially needs “an effective programme of catechetics … to eventually replace the current teaching of faith to the young,” he said.

In 2018, the Irish archbishops invited Cardinal John Dew to speak about the Wellington Archdiocese’s experience with its own Launch Out programme, which was established to form lay pastoral leaders.

Dew’s topic was “Lessons from New Zealand, Launch Out: Lay Pastoral Leadership Roles”.


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