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St Bernadette’s looks to the future and plays host to Bishop Declan

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St Bernadette’s looks to the future and plays host to Bishop Declan

On the 1st February, St Bernadette’s Parish hosted the first of four meetings to be led by Bishop Declan in the diocese, regarding the future of our parishes. This was the latest stage in the process of our pastoral guidelines, ‘Called to be a People of Hope’ under the title ‘Parishes in Communion for Mission’.

Some 200 people representing every parish in Bristol and Bath, as well as parishes from Wiltshire, Somerset and Gloucestershire came together at St Bernadette’s to reflect on how progress is being made in this important aspect of church life here in our part of the World.

It is a sad but true fact that our priests are ageing (just like the rest of us!) and we know that there will be fewer priests actively engaged in full time ministry within our diocese over the coming years, unless there is a sudden and unexpected increase in ordinations.

So it is essential that we work together as a diocese and Catholic community to see how we can best utilise our existing and future resources, particularly how we structure our parishes and obtain the greatest benefit from our remaining priests and importantly what ‘we ourselves’ can do to make a difference.

Following prayers and an introduction from Bishop Declan, the attendees were asked to break out into 16 groups to explore and discuss five key questions;

  1. What opportunities does the implementation of the process present?
  2. What anxieties are there about the process?
  3. What support is needed?
  4. How has ‘Parishes in Communion for Mission’ been received in our parish?
  5. What is already happening in our parish to implement ‘Parishes in Communion for Mission’?

There was lively debate in the groups and despite obvious anxieties expressed about some of the changes that are being asked of us, generally it was uplifting to see how positive most people felt about the exercise and a keen desire to have an influence in the changes.

Some parishes are further down the path than others and it was good to hear about their experiences of working together. Certainly most of the comments expressed both in the group I was in and then again shared in the Church when everyone reassembled after the breakout discussions, were positive.

Change is never easy, we all know that, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily bad for us. It is likely that we shall be working much more closely with other parishes in the future and benefiting from each others experiences and knowledge and that sounds good to me.

Whilst it’s inevitable that we will be asked to consider some aspects of change in our parish life that challenge us, it is nonetheless reassuring to remember that over the past 2,000 years since the birth of Christ there have been obvious and truly amazing changes in our world, yet through it all, for the faithful at least, there has been the true constancy of love for Our Lord and for each other and that certainly isn’t about to change!

So it may be good to consider in your own personal thoughts and prayers what and how ‘you’ may be able to support our parish and the wider Catholic community in the years to come. To paraphrase President J F Kennedy, perhaps we should consider this;   ask not what your church can do for you; ask what you can do for your church.

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