A new five-year pastoral plan has been launched for the Catholic diocese of Waterford and Lismore.
On Sunday, June 9, a mass to celebrate Pentecost Sunday in the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity, Waterford, Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan launched the pastoral plan for the diocese, ‘Go Make Disciples (2019 – 2024)’.
The pastoral plan sets out a programme of development and renewal in the diocese over the next five years. The pastoral plan has emerged from a process of dialogue and consultation, initiated by the Diocesan Pastoral Council, and conducted in a number of venues throughout the diocese during 2018.
Launching the plan Go Make Disciples Bishop Cullinan said, "Peoples’ hopes and dreams for our local Church were recorded at the ‘listening sessions’. Parishioners are emphatic that change is needed; it will not do to continue as before if we are to address the many challenges that face the Church in her mission today."
"People identified the absence of youth in our churches, the ageing and dwindling congregations, the serious decline in vocations to priesthood and religious life, and, of course, the enormous challenge posed by the rapid process of secularisation in our society."
"It is clear that these are issues that need to be urgently addressed in a new pastoral plan. People are proud of their Catholic faith and believe that we have good news to share, but we must read the signs of the times, listen to what the Spirit of God is saying to us, and then plan how we are going to share that Good News now and in the future."
Bishop Cullinan continued, “Reflecting on the feedback from the parishioners in light of Pope Francis’ vision for the Church today, it becomes clear that a radical transformation of ecclesial culture from maintenance to mission is called for in our parishes and diocese. Pope Francis has called for a missionary Church and for all members to become missionary disciples. Hence the title of our pastoral plan: Go Make Disciples. This title came from the Diocesan Pastoral Council."
The four themes or core strategic directions are identified to realise this vision as:
1. Becoming an evangelising Church
2. Creating communities of faith characterised by hospitality, belonging and acceptance
3. Enhancing the quality of our liturgical celebrations and providing opportunities for spiritual growth
4. Remodeling leadership and governance structures to serve the mission of evangelising and transforming the world.
Core objectives and actions to implement the strategies are outlined under each theme. Evangelisation is the key to this transformation of culture. The Alpha Programme will be rolled out in parishes to rekindle faith in Jesus as Our Lord and Saviour and thus to rediscover what it means to be a disciple. A Director of Adult Faith Formation will be appointed to support adults in their faith journey. To lead the programme for the evangelisation of youth and to coordinate ministry to youth, a Director of Youth Ministry will also be appointed.
Bishop Alphonsus spoke of a new development in leadership in the diocese, saying, “In order to better manage this evangelical approach we will need greater emphasis on team ministry in new pastoral units across the diocese, where small groups of parishes, their clergy and trained lay people will work in teams."
“Evangelisation should lead people to the faith community. Throughout the pastoral plan, the vision is one of building a Christian community of disciples where all feel welcome and have a sense of belonging and where liturgy connects with the real lives of people.”
"A disciple of Christ is called to ‘go’, to reach out to others, and to transform the world in solidarity with others. A number of objectives are outlined in Theme 4 to serve this mission of transformation. A Diocesan Commission for Justice and Peace is to be established which will advocate on behalf of marginalised groups, including the homeless, and to encourage actions to respect the environment and counteract the threat of global warming."
Bishop Cullinan concluded, “I entrust this new Diocesan Pastoral Plan entirely to the care of Our Mother Mary, conscious that we are totally dependent on the Holy Spirit who goes before us, opening our hearts and minds. God wants us to be missionary disciples, to work through us, to love Him above all things and then to bring others closer to Christ through His Church.”