A GATHERING called by the Bishop of Limerick is part of a wider effort to renew and rebuild the Catholic Church.
A diocesan synod has been convoked by Bishop Brendan Leahy over three days early in 2016. It is the first ecclesiastical council of its kind in Limerick for over 70 years and the first one in Ireland in half a century.
While synods of bishops in Rome may be familiar to many Catholics, a synod at diocesan level has become a novelty. But they have been encouraged by Pope Francis as part of his message of evangelisation and rebuilding the Church for the modern era from the ground up.
In formally convoking the Limerick synod at St John’s Cathedral on Sunday, Bishop Leahy said: “All of us together, clergy and lay, are being offered this opportunity to regenerate and build up the Church of the future in our diocese. Let’s not miss this appointment with history”.
“It’s undeniable that our Church has been rocked. It has stumbled badly but it has not fallen. Yet, while the Church reeled, faith remained precious. The Church is in need of repair. It’s what the Lord told St Francis in his time and tells us again now in our time.”
Among those who gathered at St John’s to hear the bishop officially convoke the synod were many of the 350 delegates from around Limerick city and county who have already been selected from all walks of life.
As well as members of the clergy, a broad cross-section of the Catholic laity of the diocese are represented - from professionals to students and the unemployed, young and old and people from different ethnic backgrounds. Every parish in Limerick city and county has a delegate taking part in the synod in the spring of 2016.
They have now embarked on what a spokesman for the diocese described as a “process of reflection and sharing, catechesis and prayer, out of which they will identify the issues that will be discussed at the synod”.
In his homily to a packed cathedral, Bishop Leahy said of the task ahead:
“We need to look at it again, reimagine and re-arrange, not to the way it was before but something that fits the present day. We need to rebuild and repair, listening to what the Spirit is saying to the Church today.
“But that rebuild and repair, with Pope Francis as a guiding architect and his hand directed by the Holy Spirit, is not for the clergy alone to carry out. Far from it. The Church of tomorrow must be inclusive, regenerated by us all together, clergy and laity; those of great faith and those of challenged faith, working hand in hand to create a refreshed space where the windows are open and new air breathes in. I ask everyone in the diocese to get involved in this.”