What was notable during the synodal process was the honesty of the contributions. People who spoke did so out of a real concern for the church community and from a real desire to see us better follow the promptings of the Lord. It was notable too that faith matters greatly to people and as a result there was, many times, a healthy passion to the contributions. (Editor’s note: What follows is an edited for space text but remains true to the original language used.)
Some of what people said gave them joy when they thought about their experience of Church:
- Faith is personal, I get joy and nourishment by attending Mass and receiving the Eucharist.
- A well-prepared liturgy where the homily gives us something to take with us to help us live the Gospel during the week.
- Being involved as readers, eucharistic ministers.
- The opportunity to attend daily Mass.
- Latin Mass has a lot to offer.
- The church building being open for anyone to call in to sit with God, the silence and the smell of the church building.
Music and choirs
- Singing and music and an enthusiastic and approachable celebrant make liturgy a joyful.
- Celebration music is an important element, gives the ceremony a lift, brings a different atmosphere choirs encourage children, brings more families to church, choir was missed during Covid.
- Funeral liturgy is very meaningful, funeral liturgies where the priest has engaged with the family and the people come to be present to the bereaved in their time of sadness.
- Funerals in Ireland are very well done and there is a great sense of people coming together in a prayerful manner.
Community aspect of Church
- Gathering of the community in the church, the sense of community that the Church gives in happy times and sad times.
- The celebration of Mass, be it Sunday liturgy, funerals or weddings is the only time the faith community in our parish gathers to be Church.
- Friends that are made through attendance at church.
- The great goodness shown in parishes, especially in time of tragedy.
- Sacraments bring joy, even a funeral can bring joy if it’s a celebration of life.
- Family Mass groups allow young people to be involved; children’s presence brings joy.
- Pastoral Areas, working with neighbouring parishes more inclusive.
- Active parish pastoral council, establish parish pastoral councils and bring them further.
- Ministries for lay people, develop them.
- Seeing lay people being acknowledged for the work they do behind the scenes in church.
- Various church agencies helping the poor and homeless, parishes helping Ukrainian refugees – gives hope that the human family looks after each other.
- Having a good priest that people trust and support, the local parish priest.
- Role and presence of the priest at times of bereavement,
- priests with good short, sermons.
- Dedication of the priest to vocation, priest empowers people and promotes Church.
- The wonderful Youth 2000 movement
- Young people involved in ministries and helping in church gives joy.
- Feeling that children are safe due to good safeguarding procedures.
Guidelines to live by
- The guidelines to live by given to us by the Church’s core values.
- Tradition is something to be proud of.
- Pope Francis is a great leader. Has brought joy to the Church. Interested in environmental issues. Open to change. Reaches out to everyone. A brave man.
Some of what people said disappoints them when they think about their experience of Church:
Mass and sacraments
- Small number attending church, a lot of children at church but no teenagers.
- Live-streamed Masses reducing physical attendance.
- Inability to receive under both species, no opportunities to renew faith – missions, novenas etc., lack of altar servers.
- Lack of reverence, respect, solemnity and silence in the church.
Involvement of lay people in Church
- No involvement of laity in the running of the parish, no shared responsibility with priest in decision-making affecting parish life.
- No mechanism in place to ensure that policies adopted at diocesan level are implemented by the parish.
- Lack of appreciation for priests.
- Declining vocations and number of priests, no appetite for the help of foreign priests.
- We have spent years praying for “vocations” without realising that everyone present has a vocation -this has always frustrated me.
- Sermons not relevant to today’s ethical challenges.
- Clericalism, attitude of some clergy.
- Silenced priests.
- The Church has very little relevance for young people, youth is indifferent to Church, lack of young people in church saddens.
- Young people only attend church for baptisms, weddings and special occasions.
- Lack of youth ministry.
- Young people not exposed to catechism.
- A failure to tackle the need for change, failure at all levels to deal with today’s challenges.
- The Church should defend the position of our faith on issues such as abortion, gay marriage and euthanasia.
- Church should not be afraid to criticise politicians.
- Church should talk about sin and hell, about the sacrament of Confession.
Mandatory celibacy for priests
- Is it right to expect the priesthood to be confined to men and that they not be allowed to marry?
- Disappointing that priests cannot marry, priests should be allowed to marry.
- Married men as priests, allow priests to marry.
- Let go of celibacy – why can’t we have married priests?
Role of women
- Total frustration at the explicit gender discrimination – women and men are equal and should be treated as such.
- Patriarchy – male focussed Church.
- Hurt done to women and babies and lack of responsibility for same.
- A bigger effort needed to promote the ordination of women and include women in roles of responsibility and equal standing.
- Church was too slow to apologise for clerical abuse of children.
- Child sexual abuse, and how the Church managed it, has caused massive damage; their response hasn’t helped those who are angry, lack of honesty on behalf of the Church for abuse victims.
- Sex abuse – image of Church more important than children; bishops ignored it and people lost trust in Church.
- Gay people – gender issues, people may not feel welcome if in minority groups.
- As a mother of a gay child I feel he is excluded now from our Church.
- The invitation to be part of this Synod was not properly prepared for or publicised, no awareness of this Synod.
- Negativity towards Church in the media.
- Poor communication at parish level, at diocesan and national level.
- Church is not reaching out to many in the community, those who get left behind – it’s hard to get back into church – divorced people feel excluded.
- Level of religion in some secondary schools disappointing, second level schools – no spiritual formation.
- Primary school religious curriculum leaves a lot to be desired.
- Suggestion to take religion out of schools is a major disappointment.
How could the parish be better?
- Involve children more in the mass. Have a child friendly mass, special readings.
What might the Holy Spirit be saying?
It is notable that we spoke to people from many/nearly all sectors of the Diocese including, but certainly not limited to, the urban and rural. The synodal group does, however, lament that some voices could be better heard or represented, again included here but not limited to, young families/parents were noticeably light in engaging with the process, as were those in our second level schools, the travelling community, the LGBTQI communities, those who struggle with belief and other groups. We note, then with sadness, that some voices are still largely missing from this synthesis – not from want of our trying to reach out but simply we recognise, at this point in our synodal journey, that more needs to be done to encourage people to take part in future phases of our synodal journey.
It is notable that our Church community contains, in a very real way, those who are at opposite poles – those who feel we are not Catholic enough, in the sense of holding to traditional teachings, live alongside those who feel we would be more Catholic in embracing more modern approaches.
A continued implementation of the Diocesan Pastoral Plan will help begin to realise some of what is desired in these pages.
The full report from the Diocese of Ossory is available here.