Launch of the Association of Catholic Priests in Clogher

20 priests gathered at Canon Duffy’s residence in Clones on the 2nd March 2011. 10 other priests sent their apologies.
Fr. Sean Mc Donagh from the leadership team outlined the background to the formation of the ACP, and the need for a forum where Priests have an opportunity to say what their priorities in life are and be heard. Fr. Sean encouraged us to make use of the website where a lot of the discussion takes place.
Fr. Gerard Alwill from the Diocese of Kilmore told us his own story of how he had become a member of the ACP, and sited the associations emphasis on the full implementation of the vision and teaching of the Second Vatican Council and also their emphasis on the need for liturgical celebrations that use rituals and language that are easily understood, inclusive and accessible to all. As a result of this Gerard has become deeply involved in the discussion around the introduction of the ‘New Missal’.
During the open forum many issues were respectfully and constructively raised. There was a general opinion that the ACP should be a positive voice, a constructive voice in the Irish Church today, and not an ‘anti group’ and not a ‘bishop bashing group’. The ACP were encouraged to be an association that saw dialogue as important, that saw relationship as important as the issues, and while things needed to be said, and a voice heard, a strident confrontational approach was not appreciated. The emphasis on the positive and contrary to what other might be saying, including members of the hierarchy, we were not finished as a Church.
The ACP were encouraged to learn the lessons of Fianna Fail by reenergizing themselves with a fire in their belly, and an optimism for the Irish church ahead.
It was suggested that the ACP might begin to promote ‘Share the Good News’, the new national directory for Catechesis in Ireland, this was seen as a blue print, a framework for evangelisation.
It was also felt that the ACP could see itself as encouraging those who still attend church, to become a catalyst for a new approach to preparing and celebrating the sacraments in view of the large number who are no longer practicing and yet receiving the sacraments.
The ACP were also encouraged to take seriously the need for ongoing formation of the clergy, in-service training. It was felt that we were very poor at this,  and that it would help to re-energize us.
There was a desire for a Pastoral Plan at local and national level, the ‘fire brigade’ mentality was no longer good enough, we needed to put in place a long term vision, which would be challenging for both priests and people. We need to take the boat out of the harbour and put out to sea.
Bishops were also encouraged to change their style of governance, and there was a regret expressed that the hierarchy did not do this post Murphy report. This style of leadership may have contributed to the many mistakes of the past.
The ACP were congratulated in the concern that they were showing towards those caught up in allegations made against them.
With regards the forthcoming Eucharistic Congress, there was a call that this event would not become a pompous display of power. If this happened, more harm than good would result. The ACP was encouraged to investigate where the preparatory programme was and encourage its implementation.
With regard to Special Communion Services, there was regret expressed that the hierarchy were not encouraging their use as a tool for future pastoral planning.
At a local level the document presented at the Bundoran Forum by the younger clergy in 2000 is still alive and may be one vehicle towards a way forward.
There was a call for a greater accountability for ourselves as Clergy, that we were accountable to no one, unless we chose to be and that this could lead to a dysfunctional and irresponsible form of ministry.
In relation to the anti-clericalism that exists in Irish society today, the ACP were encouraged to defend the good name of the Priest.
The ACP were also encouraged to place the promotion of Vocations as a priority in their work, and to encourage all Priests to carry with them a positive image of ministry. Many different messages and viewpoints of our role and ministry lead to a lot of confusion and false stereotyping of our Priesthood.
Finally there was an urgent call for the Catholic Church in Ireland to appoint spokespeople, without clerical collars, good lay people who were capable, trained and representative.
The next meeting of the Clogher group of the ACP will take place at the same venue in Clones on Wednesday 6th April 2011.
A brief response from a member of the Leadership Team
I am delighted to see the report of the meeting in Clogher diocese, the large number who attended, and those who signed up as members.
Clearly there was a wide-ranging discussion, with many excellent ideas emerging.
Could I encourage our members in Clogher to look at these suggestions, and see if there is any way that they can be progressed. In reality the four members of the leadership team are all busy in their own lives, and can give only a limited amount of time and energy to the ACP.  So our success will depend to a great extent on members taking initiatives on issues that they feel strongly about.  We now have a framework in the association that gives all of us a voice that is much stronger than any of us as individuals.  And in the website we have access to the views of other members around the country.  The initiative on the new liturgical texts is a good example. It was fronted by members who felt strongly about it, and had only a small involvement of the leadrship.
So, welcome to the new members, and well done on the meeting.  My hope is that we will hear much more from you.
Tony Flannery

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