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Together in Hope – Bishop Bill’s Pastoral Letter for Advent 2010

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Sept 2009 Permanent Deacons
Today I am announcing the introduction of the ministry of Permanent Deacons in the Diocese of Kerry. This follows approval received from Rome for its introduction in Ireland. The Apostles chose “seven men of good repute” to help them in their work with a growing number of believers. For the first five centuries deacons played an important role in the life of the Church.

The Second Vatican Council, in 1964, called for the ministry of deacons to be restored in order to enrich the life of the Church. Since then permanent deacons have been introduced in many parts of the world. It is our hope and intention to introduce them into the life of the Church in Kerry. The role of the Permanent Deacon involves three major areas of ministry: Liturgy, Sacred Scripture and Charity.

1. Liturgy.
(a) Preparation for the sacraments and officiating at Baptisms, Weddings and Funerals.
(b) Distributing the Eucharist at Parish Liturgies and bringing the Eucharist to the sick and dying.
(c) Presiding at Benediction and other prayer services.

2. Sacred Scripture.
(a) Proclaiming the Gospel and Preaching.
(b) Promoting Bible Reading and Study.
(c) Providing opportunities for Religious Education for all age groups.

3. Charity.
(a) Ministering to the poor and marginalised.
(b) Visiting the sick.
(c) Visiting those in Prison.

Who can become a Deacon?
1. Candidates must be men of strong faith and devotion to the Church.
2. Married men should be between the ages of 35-60 and single men between 25-60. In the case of single men a vow of celibacy will be required.
3. They must be willing and able to undertake a four-year period of study and preparation (part-time) in Theology and Scripture.
4. They must have experience in serving the local community.

I hope that a number of men from our Diocese will come forward and volunteer to serve in what will be a very rewarding ministry for those involved. The first step for anyone who is interested is to talk to your local priest. More information is available on the Diocesan Website.
Diocesan Plan.
On Sunday 27th September there will be a Special Celebration in the Malton Hotel, Killarney to mark the launch of the next phase of the Pastoral Plan for the Diocese of Kerry. This plan involves a renewal of every aspect of the Diocese. It recognises the role to be played by all the people of the diocese in this renewal.
I ask for your prayers for the success of the Pastoral Plan and also that suitable candidates for the Permanent Diaconate will come forward to enrich our Diocese further in the years ahead.

A New Way Forward – responding to the changing needs of the Diocese of Kerry


Oct 2008  A New Way Forward
We are faced with a great challenge in our times! As the number of ordained priests decreases, we are invited to plan so that the parishes of the Diocese of Kerry can continue to be vibrant, faith-filled communities promoting the mission of Christ. While some might see this as a crisis, I believe that necessity can also be a moment of opportunity. By facilitating change, we can choose how we respond to the future. By planning now, we are ensuring that communities are better resourced to meet their pastoral needs. It is an invitation for all of us to do what we should have been doing anyway, namely, to gather and share the wisdom and talents of the wider community for the good of all. Pope John Paul II echoed this sense of parish when he said “it is a place in the world for the community of believers to gather together, to be a house of welcome to all and a place of service to all.”

As we plan for the future, as a diocese and as parishes, we must plan for what will be most life-giving for all of us. You may have been aware of two areas in the diocese, where neighbouring parishes clustered their resources, sharing training programmes and exchanging pulpits. One of the many benefits that arose from this is that it allowed people to share their experiences and their strengths, and to come up with new ways of being parish in today’s Ireland. Now as a diocese, I am proposing that each parish will work more closely with its neighbouring parishes and together form a pastoral area. A pastoral area is a group of neighbouring parishes working together for the enrichment and benefit of each parish. In each pastoral area, a priest will be appointed as Vicar Forane. Working with a co-ordinating group of laity and priests drawn from all the parishes of the pastoral area, his role will be to co-ordinate the pastoral activity of these parishes. The Vicar Forane will be assisted in his role by all in the pastoral area, each sharing her or his gifts and wisdom for the good of the whole group.

This new development means that in time, a pastoral team will be formed in each pastoral area to respond to existing and new needs, and that there will be a continuity of liturgical services and pastoral care when a parish in the area no longer has a resident priest. The diocesan pastoral team will be there to support and work alongside parishes and pastoral areas as together we grow into a new way of being parish and of being church. At present, in consultation with priests and people in the diocese, I am in the process of identifying the pastoral areas which will be officially named by the end of October 2008. At that time too, I will appoint the Vicars Forane who will co-ordinate the pastoral activity in each of the named pastoral areas.

Our diocesan vision calls each of us to live our faith in witness, in worship and in service. It is in our local communities that God is present – in our openness to one another, in looking beyond our parish boundaries to share our gifts with others, in reaching out to our fellow human beings in their needs, and in our celebration of the Sunday Eucharist, which is the source and summit of our Christian life. In gathering and working with our neighbouring parishes, we will be expressing what it is to be parish, what it is to be church.

This was spelled out very clearly by Pope John Paul II, “Because of the one dignity flowing from baptism, each member of the lay faithful, together with ordained ministers and men and women religious, shares a responsibility for the Church’s mission.”(CFL 15,1989).  By coming together in pastoral areas, we are being church with one another, living expressions of our relationship with God. The Church is a community of communities; by building community locally and by gathering with other communities, together we become the church in this diocese. Ní neart go cur le chéile!

Early in 2005, we launched our Diocesan Vision and Pastoral Plan, Our Community, Our Church, Our Future, which comes to an end in 2009. To prepare for our future and to ensure that we put in place what we will need to support parishes and pastoral areas as we move forward together, we need to plan now. At present, a diocesan plan is being prepared by the Diocesan Pastoral Council and the Priests’ Council, in conjunction with the diocesan pastoral team, which will give direction to the diocese over the coming three years 2009 – 2011. What will be proposed in this plan will fully accord with the teaching of the Church. I am quite sure that if it receives the enthusiastic support of the priests and people of the diocese it will succeed and greatly benefit our diocese and our parishes.

May God’s Spirit guide us as we journey onwards.

Bishop Bill Murphy