This week, the Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy hosted a gathering of people from the worlds of business, the arts, volunteering, religion and education to help identify a ‘mission’ for Limerick.
This was part of the preparation for the Limerick Diocesan Synod which takes place next April and its aim was to offer a ‘moment of dialogue so that the Church can make informed decisions as it moves forward in its mission at the service of the city’.
The participants came from a diverse range of backgrounds and, not surprisingly, the discussion was lively and thought-provoking.
At its centre was an attempt to identify what makes Limerick special and what challenges must be overcome in order to allow the city and county realise its full potential.
Participants recalled the moments when they felt most proud to call themselves Limerick people (last year’s successful hosting of the City of Culture came up again and again); they listed the many great characteristics of Limerick - its openness, its strong community spirit, its friendliness; and they told stories about their own experiences of living here, good and bad.
However, they did not shy away from the many difficulties that we must still overcome
Among the most common issues cited were social disadvantage, lack of equality in access to education and opportunity, and mental health problems, particularly as experienced by our young people.
In his invitation to the gathering, Bishop Leahy referred to Limerick 2030, the €250m plan to revitalise the city centre and attract investment and jobs over the next 15 years.
It’s an ambitious and innovative project and something that should have positive impact on all our lives. But economic development cannot happen unless the underlying problems of inequality are addressed. And, in doing so, we all have a role to play - as organisation and as individuals.
Bishop Leahy is to be congratulated for facilitating such open dialogue among all the stakeholders. If Limerick is to continue to develop and realise its potential, we must continue to engage with each other, listen to each other and work together to address our common problems.