Christmas greetings of Dr. Michael Neary – Archbishop of Tuam – December 2010
A Time to look back
The festive season of Christmas is a time to look back at the events and happenings of the year just gone by and reflect on what has been. We look back, savour and enjoy the good times while acknowledging the difficult times as well.
A Time to look out for others
Christmas is a time that we become aware of those less well-off, less fortunate than ourselves. Christmas is a time when we do our best to reach out to others with care, with concern, with Christian love. We remember in a special way those that have been affected by the economic down-turn, the elderly, people living on their own, the bereaved, people that are suffering in any way.
Issues of Concern
Respect for life, unexpected death and serious injury often caused by motor accidents continue to be a major concern along with the growing rates of lawlessness, violence, vulgarity and serious crime. My sympathies go out to those at this time of the year who have been affected in any way by any of these serious issues.
I pose the question; is the resort to drugs and alcohol, an expression of frustration with the emptiness they experience in life? Are we enabling them as society and Church by giving them interpersonal and social skills and the necessary faith and hope to be able to cope with whatever crosses, difficulties and challenges they encounter?
As Christians we believe that the God of hope is most powerfully preent in seasons of hopelessness.
Economic prosperity in the aftermath of the Celtic Tiger has taken a severe hammering. Many have lost jobs and security in the financial downturn. So many citizens have come under severe psychological and mental strain because of this in an effort to make ends meet. Those on the margins of society, travellers, refugees, addicts, single-parent families, victims of crime and abuse continue to experience difficulty and hardship. I commend the good work of the many caring groups within the diocese that look after those with special needs.
Emigrants and Immigrants
At this time of the year our emigrants are very much on our minds. We welcome home those who have returned to be with us for the holiday period and our thoughts go out to those who could not come home. I extend a special word of welcome to those who have come to join us from other countries and enrich our work-force and culture by settling in our midst.
Care for the Earth
Care for the environment, protection against pollution, quality of drinking water, global warming and climate change continues to be a an on-going issue of concern. This has raised some ethical questions concerning life-style especially in the wake of the recent variable weather conditions and the effect this has had on farming, rural life and tourism. It is an issue that will demand much attention in the future.
2010 has been full of ups and downs, highs and lows on the field of sport, recreation, music, drama and entertainment, something that provides us with an ever more necessary light-hearted diversion and escape from the troubles of life.
Tuam Diocesan Perspective
From the Diocesan point of view many difficulties remain from the fall-out of rising secularism, materialism along with the recent troubles in the Church at local, national and international levels.
With the decline in the numbers of clergy the process of rationalisation and the clustering of parishes to share resources has accelarated at a rapid rate. Parishes have been very understanding when it comes to the realistation that their area may not have a resident priest, but may have to share and pool facilities and resources.
However, 2010 has brought many hopeful signs also. The Archdiocese launched a new vocations campaign, www.onelifeonecalloneresponse.com during the year whick has attracted significant interest. The vocations team continue to work hard to promote vocations in schools, through prayer and at various pilgrim places. At present we have four excellent candidates for the priesthood and others have expressed an interest and are workin through a process of discernment.
Diocesan and Pastoral Councils
Sterling work is being done by the Diocesan Pastoral Council and Pastoral Councils at local level, as well as the council for the laity who work in close association with a very dedicated and hard working group of clergy.
Youth Ministry and Liturgy
The Diocesan Youth Council is going from strength to strength and organise many different events in the course of the year. A large number of young people have already signed up for World Youth Day in Madrid in August, 2011. Great work is being done by the diocesan liturgical officer and various liturgical groups in celebrating the great events of our faith throughout the Churches year.
A group of volunteers have worked tirelessly at diocesan and parish level to strengthen and consolidate an already exisiting Child Safeguarding Structure. A new safeguarding policy was launched during the year, Garda vetting of clergy has been successfully carried through and the retraining of priests and parish personel has been ongoing throughout the year.
At the request of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict in Spring of this year each of the four Archdioceses have had apostolic visitors to monitor and review the Church at local level. The Archbishop of Ottawa, Archbishop Prendergast and Fr. Conn, S.J., the Professor of Canon Law at the Gregorian Univeristy have visited the diocese during the year as ministers of encourgement from the Holy Father. They met with laity, religious, clergy, diocesan and parish groups and spent much time listening to victims of abuse in an effort to help them to experience some form of healing for the terrible hurt visited upon them. A penitential service and prayers for victims of abuse was organised in the Cathedral in middle of Advent. We welcome the Apostolic Visitatation back again in Spring for the next phase of their visit. During that visit they hope follow the pilgrim, penitential route of St. Patrick in climbing the Reek with a group of young people from the diocese.
A new diocesan website was launched, courtesy of Sli Nua Communications at the beginning of the year www.tuamarichdiocese.org.
A new diocesan directory was launched in Autumn with more information than ever on diocesan and parish structures.
Numbers of pilgrims going to Knock, Ballintubber, Máméan, Croagh Patrick continue to rise. These positive signs, and many other events have given all of us much hope and encouragement for the future. I pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to guide, inspire and lead us in 2011.
A time to look to the future with Hope and Joy
As Christians, we are people of hope and people of joy. Pope Benedict XVI frequently returns again and again to the great hope our faith offers us in a world of indifference and empty materialism. No matter what happens we carry this hope with us because of the Christ-event, the coming of Jesus Christ in the incarnation and through the redemption won for us through the Cross and Resurrection.
At this special time of the year, this time of profound religious significance I pray that the message of the Christ-Child would be reborn in our land, in our homes, in our hearts and souls this Christmas season. Peace, joy, health, happiness, along with many blessings and graces to all for a joyful and fulfilling new year in 2011.
+ Michael Neary
Archbishop of Tuam