Future of parish life subject of two-day conference hosted by Mary Immaculate College

Jess Casey

Reporter:

Jess Casey

Fr Eamonn Fitzgibbon of MIC

Fr Eamonn Fitzgibbon of MIC

AS VOCATIONS to priesthood ‘plummet’, major challenges facing parish life are to be discussed at a groundbreaking two-day conference, hosted by Mary Immaculate College at their campus in Thurles.

The event is aiming to bring parishioners, clergy and theologians together, to explore important pastoral issues confronting the Church in Ireland, according to Rev. Dr Éamonn Fitzgibbon, director of the Irish Institute of Pastoral Studies at MIC. 

“In Ireland it is quite clear that the dynamic of the parish is changing dramatically,” Rev Fitzgibbon said. 

“A seismic shift has been occurring as vocations to priesthood and religious life have plummeted,  with the result that the forms of pastoral ministry and parish life that were such staples of the Catholic Church in Ireland for generations will no longer be possible.” 

“How the parishes are run and managed is a major challenge for the Church authorities and for the laity as they bid to chart a way forward,” he added. 

While Ireland is in the middle of this transition, other countries have already been through this process, according to Rev Fitzgibbon who believes that the Church here can learn from these experiences by studying how other parishes, communities and dioceses coped when faced with similar challenges.

The conference will feature Cardinal John Dew, Archbishop of Wellington and Vice President of New Zealand’s Catholic Bishops Conference as its keynote speaker, with other speakers including Bishop Michael Wustenberg, who will speak about his experience as a bishop in South Africa, and Fr Matthew Nunes from the Archdiocese of Liverpool. 

Dr Margaret Lavin, Professor Emerita at the University of Toronto, will also speak on the role of the clergy and laity in the Catholic Church. Guest speakers will also be joined by Martin Kennedy, a freelance trainer and facilitator who works with Church and community groups and Dr Jessie Rogers who lectures in Scripture at the Pontifical University, St Patrick's College Maynooth. The conference is aiming for interaction to be two-way and all-inclusive, according to Rev Fitzgibbon. The Future of the Irish Parish takes place at MIC St Patrick’s Campus Thurles on Tuesday and Wednesday, August 28 and 29. More info on (0504) 20590 or see www.irishinstituteforpastoralstudies.com