Meeting supports ‘umbrella organisation’ for laity

At a meeting attended by approximately 170 people in All Hallows College on Wednesday 30th May 2012 there was unanimous support for the establishment of an ‘umbrella organisation’ to represent members of the laity interested in supporting a Reform and Renewal’ agenda in our Church. The attendees, who represented many Dublin parishes as well as a number of dioceses across the country, included members of existing lay organisations, members of the religious and ‘non aligned’ individuals. The group could be described (in the main) as loyal, committed but disillusioned ‘church going’ catholics. Many described their current roles in supporting their local church or their work in promoting the ‘Christian Message’ through involvement in various parish organisations. The meeting was remarkable for the level of reason and maturity which characterised the discussion. The overwhelming, recurring sentiment was one expressing real concern for the future of our Church. Some expressed dismay at the failure of the Hierarchy to engage with the laity, particularly a laity willing to work, in cooperation with the church authorities, towards renewal in our Church. There was palpable sadness in the comments of some parents in attendance who recounted stories of their children losing the faith as a consequence of recent developments in the Irish Church. The sadness all the greater because of the lack of hope or a coherent plan on the part of the church authorities to seriously address this hemorrhage of, what should be, the next generation of catholic parents.
A representative ‘steering group’ was mandated by the meeting to work on a policy framework for the ‘umbrella organisation’ and this group was requested to report back to another general meeting in September 2012.
The ‘umbrella organisation’ initiative was also strongly supported by scores of messages of support from members of the laity and members of the religious who were unable to be present at the meeting.
The ‘organising group’ would like to sincerely thank all who attended the meeting and those who sent messages of support from all over the country,as well as from the UK, Europe and the USA. Last night was a small but very significant step on the road to the establishment in Ireland (for the first time) of a single ‘umbrella organisation’ to coordinate and lead the laity in pursuit of their rightful place as baptised members of our Church.

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  1. Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh says:

    As a lay person, I am sure the lay people are grateful for being given a way that their voices can be heard, for the good of the church and towards church reform. Also, I feel sure that the lay people will also be very receptive to being welcomed by the ACP, as a full and equal member of the ACP group, rather than being somewhat on the outside, in a so-called umbrella group, if the ACP would only invite them in. Clericalism has been a huge problem in the Roman Catholic Church. In the spirit of Vatican II, I would ask the leaders of the ACP to consider forming only one organization, which would allow the voices of everyone to be heard equally, instead of continuing to treat lay people as second class citizens, because that is how it looks to me. Lay, religious, and ordained need to have the opportunity to dialogue with one another. A major emphasis from the bishops of Vatican II was the insight that all of us are THE CHURCH and THE PEOPLE OF GOD. I believe that more will be accomplished for the good of the church, if there is real dialogue and cross-fertilization of ideas from the start among everyone. Understandably, many in the clergy may not be used to working directly with the laity, due to clericalism. I hope the clergy will see the wisdom of working directly with the laity as equals, and gain the courage to do so, in order for a more solid foundation of reform to develop. Sincere best wishes in your brave and pioneering work.

  2. Mary O Vallely says:

    I agree with Dr Rosemary McHugh above that the ideal would be to have one group. However, I would be concerned that we could lose some of the (approx) 1,000 priests who have now joined the ACP. Priests, I feel, need a safe space, for the moment, to express and debate their own unique concerns and issues. I’ve noticed similar problems in Parenting courses, for example, where men feel safer in their own company. It seems odd but I accept the fact that many men do not feel comfortable in the presence of women. They can be easily intimidated! This is not to deny the huge, huge injustices done to women in this Church down the ages and even today. What really makes me angry is the fact that we are shut out from the diaconate, even religious sisters who have given their lives to serving God. I cannot understand that!! It will take time to change this mindset and I agree that the clericalist mindset is going to be a challenge for us all.
    My honest feeling is that it is best for the two groups, the ordained and the unordained, to work as closely together as possible until the day comes when we can cast aside our fears and negative emotions and be as Christ would have us be, one Church, one people working to bring the message of the Gospels to all people. I think too that we are starting to model a new way of relating to each other on this forum. Thank God for it.
    Now, I’d love to hear opinions on “what is the priesthood?” This forum is an ideal place to learn, and to discuss such questions.
    Mary V

  3. Kevin Walters says:

    When I make a post on this site I know that within the ACP I am been heard by the heart of God’s church on earth, there is no stonewalling here as we have transparency. This opportunity for ALL to be heard and see the church in action must not be side lined to an Umbrella Group.
    Quote from the post of Sheila McHugh. (How the Redemptorists have changed)
    As always I ask, ‘where is Jesus in this conversation’? Open dialogue requires courage, and trust in the God who refuses to be limited by names or gender, a relational God of Love, A God that we as Christians call Trinity.
    So maybe we are being asked to get rid of the labels, step down from the pedestals, and be stripped down to the basic humanity that we all share, where true Trinitarian relationships can only occur.
    In Christ

  4. David Walsh says:

    I have followed ACP since the first concern about the new missal and attended the meeting in Portlaoise and the subsequent meetings about ‘An Assembly”. I have also kept an eye on the ACP website. I never saw or heard, however, of the “Council for Pastoral Renewal and Adult Faith Development Communion and Co-responsibility”. The “Reflection” sessions it is running nearly every day at the Eucharistic Congress, seem to be very much what the “Assembly of the Catholic Church” is also aiming at. The detail for the session (Click on the link to the presenters) is also eye-opener for me. I quote
    “At the opening of the Pastoral Convention of the Diocese of Rome in 2009, Pope Benedict XVI asked what paths can be taken since the mandate to evangelise not only concerns a few but rather all of the baptised. He asked that we renew our efforts for a formation which is more attentive and focused on the vision of the Church … on the part of priests as well as of religious and lay people to understand ever better what this Church is, this People of God in the Body of Christ. He said “it is necessary to improve pastoral structures in such a way that the co-responsibility of all the members of the People of God in their entirety is gradually promoted, with respect for vocations and for the respective roles of the consecrated and of lay people. This demands a change in mindset, particularly concerning lay people. They must no longer be viewed as ‘collaborators’ of the clergy but truly recognised as ‘co-responsible’, for the Church’s being and action, thereby fostering the consolidation of a mature and committed laity.
    ”From 13th – 15th September the Council for Pastoral Renewal and Adult Faith Development in dialogue with the Council for Justice and Peace will be hosting a national conference in the Sheraton Hotel, Athlone on the theme of Communion and Co-responsibility in the Church.  The aims of this event are: 
• to further the work of renewal and reform in the Catholic Church in Ireland at this time;
• to enhance the capacity of participants to work for renewal and reform in their own contexts;
• to mark the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II and look ahead to the Year of Faith.

As part of this process, the Council for Pastoral Renewal and Adult Faith Development is offering a number of opportunities for pilgrims at the Eucharistic Congress to further this work of renewal and reform by participating in one of the sessions being offered.  It is hoped that those attending would share their experiences from dioceses, parishes, groups and organisations with the team through structured dialogues.  These experiences will be communicated expressly as reflections from Congress pilgrims at the national conference.  The process will be facilitated by Dr Anne Codd, Ms Julieann Moran, MTh and other faith development personnel in Ireland.”
    Is this not what we all want? Or am I missing something?

  5. I think I agree with Mary. The priests need a safe space at the moment and the fact that I, and hundreds who share our view in supporting the ACP, are not officially full members does not dilute our support for the ACP and it’s vision of church.

  6. JOHN LUPTON says:

    Surely, the affirmation of our baptism is the basis for church renewal, just as the classification of “laity” distorts our ability to empower ourselves through baptism? Thus an organisational structure based on “laity” rather than “the baptised” will achieve nothing other than leaving the clerical church to remain as such. I would suggest a structure of independent pastoral councils at parish, cluster/area and national level.

  7. Noirin Lynch says:

    I’m delighted to hear the meeting in All Hallows went so well – Congrats to all involved. Many, like myself, couldn’t be there, but held you in our prayers. And I’m looking forward to the September meeting which I’ll put in my diary as soon as I get the date!
    David – the “Council for Pastoral Renewal and Adult Faith Development Communion and Co-responsibility” is part of the Bishops Conference, (like Trocaire, National Liturgy Office, Accord, etc). Its basically the forum for pastoral development in Ireland. More info here: http://www.catholicbishops.ie/adultfaith/ (scroll down past the names for ‘about us’).
    Theres a national council made up of representatives of diocesan pastoral workers, missionaries, youth workers & bishops. Diocesan pastoral workers (like myself) meet twice a year in the four provinces, and once a year at a Summer AGM of sorts in Maynooth. Every second year theres a big conference – (for details see http://www.catholicbishops.ie/2012/03/16/communion-coresponsibility-church/). I’m not involved in organising this conference, but I do know that a central idea of it is to consult as many people and groups as possible in advance and to make this the basis of the conferences conversation. I think groups and diocese will also be invited to create stands and spaces at the conference on the theme, so a real breath of voices can be heard.
    Like all systems its not perfect, but its good to have a clear structure in place … its just one of many ways in which the Semper Fideles should be heard.

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