Apostolic Visitation – March 2011 – Letter from Archbishop Prendergast

To the faithful, religious and clergy of the Archdiocese of Tuam

In order to carry out the Visitation, which the Holy Father has proposed in his Letter to the Church in Ireland, a part of which he has entrusted to me, I was present in the Archdiocese of Tuam for the first part of the Apostolic Visitation from December 13-18, 2010 . During that time I had an opportunity to meet many people, to listen to their concerns, worries and interests. It has been a valuable listening exercise for me.

I intend to be present again from March 5th – 12th, 2011.  On Saturday, March 5th I will celebrate the parish vigil Mass in St. Mary’s Church, Westport.  The Tuam Diocesan Youth Choir will be present.  After that I intend meeting young people of the diocese to listen to their view of Church.  On Sunday, March 6th, I intend linking up with a Youth Pilgrimage who are walking the Tochar Phadraig.  I intend meeting them at the foot of Croagh Patrick around 2.00 pm and hope to celebrate Mass with them and any one else that would like to come along around 3.30 pm at the summit of the Reek.   On Monday evening, I intend celebrating the Parish Novena Mass in the Church of the Holy Rosary in Castlebar at 7.30 pm and hope to greet the congregation afterwards.

During the week, I will strive to be as available as I can to meet with those who have been harmed by abuse in the Tuam archdiocese and wish to speak with me about their experience. My hope is to share with them the sorrow of a contrite church and the pastoral care which Pope Benedict and the church hold out to them. As well, I will be in touch with officials in Ireland and Tuam to evaluate how well the Guidelines of Safeguarding Children have been implemented and are working.

My intent is to gather with and meet the victims; with the archbishop and his officials; and with priests, men and women religious and the laity of the Archdiocese, knowing that the crisis of the sexual abuse of minors has had profound effects upon the life of the whole community.

Last March, the Holy Father gave voice to his profound sorrow and deep regret over the sexual abuse of children, perpetrated by priests and religious, and over the lack of adequate response to the way in which such cases were handled in the past. Pope Benedict sees this Visitation and those to the other archdioceses as apostolic and pastoral opportunities to assist the Irish Church to heal from this grievous wound.

During my time in Tuam, I will be aided by others, particularly by Father James Conn, who teaches at the Gregorian University and has had previous experience in reviewing church bodies through the visitation process. I feel certain that his past experience will be invaluable to me during this Visitation and afterwards.

Anyone who wishes to share their testimony may contact me through the Apostolic Nunciature in Dublin, to request an appointment, or to submit their thoughts in written form, also through the Nunciature.

Please address correspondence as follows:
Most Reverend Terrence Prendergast, S.J., c/o Apostolic Nunciature, 183 Navan Road, Dublin 7

I ask for your prayers for the whole Visitation program and this part touching the Church of Tuam in particular.

There will be a Special Mass to pray for reconciliation and healing in Castlebar Church at a date to be fixed in the near future. I hope to be present at Mass in Westport on Saturday, March 5th and to meet a gathering of young people after that in Hotel Westport. In addition, I invite the youth especially, but any others who wish, to join me on a prayerful pilgrimage up Croagh Patrick on Sunday, March 6th, beginning at early in the morning, subject to weather conditions being favorable. Some members of the Diocesan Youth Council will begin this pilgrimage along the Tochar Phadraic and I intend to meet them when they arrive at Croagh Patrick.

In the deep darkness of the days leading toward the new light of Spring, we will pray that the light of Christ— through the intercession of the Blessed Mother, St. Patrick, St. Brigid, St. Colmcille and St. Jarlath—will lead us all to a brighter day, one filled with hope for the healing and renewal only God can give.

Ottawa, Canada
The Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul
January 25th, 2011

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