Bishop of Raphoe, Alan McGuckian SJ.
Bishop of Raphoe, Alan McGuckian launched Forward Together/Ar Aghaidh le Chéile, the new Pastoral Plan for the Diocese of Raphoe for the years 2022–2024.
A small group of priests, religious and lay faithful under the chairmanship of Fr Michael McKeever was working on the plan all through the pandemic. With support and facilitation from Jim Deeds they presented a draft document to the bishop in Summer 2021.
Bishop McGuckian recommended the plan to the diocese with the conviction that it will foster a truly synodal spirit of cooperation between priests and people in the parishes and across the diocese.
At the launch at 7pm Mass in the Cathedral of St Eunan and St Columba last week the bishop pointed to three different dimensions under the headings of structure, mission and planning.
“A key element in the structure of a synodal church will be well-formed Parish Pastoral Councils. For that reason a priority for us in this first year will be the training and formation – or the renewal – of effective Parish Pastoral Councils in as many parishes as possible.
"As bishop I have relied greatly on the support and hard work of our interim Diocesan Pastoral Council to bring the plan to this point. I can see what a gift a good Pastoral Council can be.”
He said it is essential for the missionary outreach of the diocese that they form ourselves in a deep knowledge of the Faith
"Only people who have come to know Christ deeply as he reveals himself in Word and Sacrament will be able to proclaim Him effectively to others. The plan proposes a renewal of faith formation across the ages with an emphasis on children and young adults.
“As regards out planning for the future the plan will involve a serious review of the whole diocese on the basis of which we will have to discern how best to proceed into the future.
"We will want to do that in a prayerful, discerning way with our full emphasis on identifying the future into which God is calling us. The future decline in number of priests is a big worry for many people as they worry about the effects of this on their own areas.
"We will have to face into the realities as we find them with hope in God and an openness to His will. It is important that we be open to change but that people know that they are key to the process. The formation of Parish Pastoral Councils and other councils will be central to this.”
He added plans aren’t made to sit on shelves and with that in mind the bishop pointed out that there is already a date in the diary for the parishes of the western deanery to come together and begin working towards the formation of new Parish Pastoral Councils.
The emphasis in the plan on faith formation for young people has already issued in a series of night of Prayer and Praise organised by Connor Duncan in the Diocesan Pastoral Centre.
“The plan is only a start,” the bishop said to the congregation in St Eunan’s Cathedral, “and I invite you reflect deeply on it, to ask yourself what the Lord is saying to you in it and then to be charitably stubborn in your insistence that we all work with it and put it into effect,” he said.
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