One hundred and eighty Pastoral Council Representatives attend meetings in Claremorris.
Over 180 Pastoral Council representatives from Mayo, Galway and Roscommon gathered in the McWilliam Park Hotel, Claremorris on February 15th and 16th to look at the future of the faith in the fifty-five parishes which make up the Archdiocese of Tuam. Guest speaker was the internationally renowned author Loughlan Sofield, who helps parishes and dioceses internationally to plan for challenging times.
Sofield told the large gatherings that by using the unique gifts of all members of the community, parishes can enjoy a stronger future. This approach, described by Sofield as “collaborative ministry”, challenges pastoral councils to broaden their outlook. It also enables Pastoral Councils to address two of their core concerns – namely how to increase membership, and attract younger people.
Comparing a parish community that is tired and bereft of new ideas to the patient in need of by-pass surgery, Sofield said that the reason parishes sometimes feel burned out is because the potential of all members of the community are not being realised or harnessed. New ideas and new ways of working are not explored. Sofield advocates the involvement of as many members of the community as possible in the work of the parish. That way all take ownership of their faith together.
A recurring question among the participants at the Claremorris meetings was how can the Pastoral Council involve more people and attract people of a younger age profile. In order to do this council members need to listen to the needs of different groups living in the parish i.e. young people, the bereaved, third level students, young parents and the elderly. In doing this, Sofield advised council members to reflect on when they were ministered to themselves and then in turn broaden their understanding of ministry.
The Claremorris meetings formed part of Sofield’s first visit to the West of Ireland. While he is in this country, Sofield will address a major conference in Dublin, as well as working with Pastoral Councils in the dioceses of Armagh and Limerick.
An extended interview with Loughlan Sofield will be broadcast on Midwest Radio on Sunday morning February 28th.