‘God is Love’ – the Derry Diocesan Plan 2018–2021 sets out the path that we as a diocese hope to take in every parish community over the course of the next three years. Printed copies are available at your parish parochial house or parish centre or for download below.
Why does the Diocese need a Pastoral Plan?
The need for a pastoral plan was formally agreed in 2016 by Bishop Donal McKeown and the Council of Priests. An Interim Pastoral Council was appointed to carry out the task. The Council comprised 14 men and women: clergy, religious and laity. Over a period of two years, Council members met regularly, prayerfully reflecting on the current and future needs of the Diocese and seeking to identify solutions to the many challenges we face.
The work carried out by the Interim Pastoral Council is an example of how the Church must become a ‘co-responsible Church’. Pope Benedict was the first to use this phrase to mean a church where laity and clergy share responsibility for running parishes and dioceses.
The Interim Pastoral Council developed a plan which invites lay parishioners to become involved in the running of their parishes across a wide range of areas. Critically, the Plan identifies the practical need to begin planning for those times when a priest might not be present in the way that they have been up to now.
Three pastoral themes
The Plan has three pastoral themes which will help focus our energies, personnel and resources:
- Build Welcoming and Inclusive Communities
- Be Disciples of Jesus Christ, Growing in Faith Together
- Work to Make Jesus Known and Loved
The Plan asks us to take responsibility individually and collectively for making our parishes places of welcome; where those who feel excluded or far from the Church’s love can begin to feel the genuine love and warmth of our parish communities. The Plan calls on all parishioners to be disciples of Christ, prayerfully seeking the grace to reach out in love to all. Bishop Donal McKeown believes that by doing these things – even imperfectly – we CAN make Jesus known and loved.
Refocusing of what we do in our parishes
Implementing the Plan will involve a major refocusing of what we do in our parishes. Dedicated resources and personnel will be established at diocesan level to support parishes to implement the Plan fully. Training and formation for those who will have leadership roles in each parish will be provided. As each parish community develops its own capability, it can begin to take responsibility for its pastoral priorities and take the first steps to address those priorities, whether using their own resources or working co-operatively with neighbouring parishes.
Bishop Donal has offered his sincere and heartfelt thanks to the 14 members of the Interim Pastoral Council, stating that “I have journeyed with the Council members for two years. I am immensely grateful for their energy, enthusiasm, dedication and honesty. The Plan is a first step in developing a co-responsible Church at parish and diocesan level.”
Bishop Donal also asked for the prayers and support of all, saying “As we move forward, I take comfort in your prayers and support – as I believe that everything done in faith and love will bear fruit in God’s own good time.”