“I do not look on this as a crisis”

Bishop of Waterford & Lismore, Alphonsus Cullinan, pictured with Pope Tawadros 11 of Alexandria, the head of the Coptic Christian Church in Egypt.

Bishop of Waterford & Lismore, Alphonsus Cullinan, pictured with Pope Tawadros 11 of Alexandria, the head of the Coptic Christian Church in Egypt.

We are not and cannot be people of despair. Sometimes we may feel that way. But we believe in the Risen Lord and that the Lord is in charge of all – however chaotic it may seem. What are we offering people is the message of eternal life and nothing less.
The more I see of modern life the more I realize that many people are lost, floundering, so many chasing after wind. They need a vision. They are our brothers and sisters about whom we care, whom we love.
The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World from Vatican II (Gaudium et Spes) opens with these words: “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts. This is what we offer – a transcendent view of life, the message of eternal life and nothing less.”
It is because we believe in God and care about people that we do what we do as Church.
We must not sell ourselves short, – every day we gather people to pray, we celebrate Mass, we help run schools, we visit schools and interact with hundreds and perhaps thousands of children across the Diocese, we visit the sick in hospitals and nursing homes, we visit the lonely, we comfort the sorrowful, we bury the dead, we celebrate the love between man and woman in marriage, we welcome new members into the Church in baptism, we help bring communities together in all kinds of ways, in short, when you add up all the activity of the local Church it amounts to a great deal, day in day out – offering the world hope and vision, to see beneath the visible things toward the invisible God who is the ground of all being and the goal of all life.
This immense contribution of priests we know is now changing due to the falling numbers and the ageing profile. I do not look on this as a crisis. We are living in a time of change and, as Pope Francis stated “a change of era”.
Every era has its challenges. It has fallen to us to be caught right in the middle of this particular change. We can curse it or embrace it. I would prefer to embrace it. Who do we put our trust in? Ourselves or God? How can we continue to minister to our people with the personnel we have? This is the object of this day and will, I hope, be followed up by further days as we plan for the future.

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