Derry Diocesan Pastoral Council
Summary of the work carried out in 2020/2021
The Diocesan Pastoral Council (‘the Council’) was established to assist the bishop
- In implementing the Diocesan Pastoral Plan
- In preparing for a Diocesan Assembly in 2021
- In addressing the pressing pastoral changes facing the Diocese.
The Council met each month from September 2020- June 2021 on Zoom due to COVID restrictions. Meetings were well- attended.
This document provides a high-level summary of the work carried out during the year.
Parish Pastoral Councils
The Council’s working group on Parish Pastoral Councils (PPCs) met throughout the year and built on its initial paper of December 2019. Council members were involved in weekly Zoom meetings with Parish Pastoral Councils (arranged by the Diocesan Pastoral Co-ordinator) from January – March 2021. These meetings facilitated the following:
- Making initial contact with parishes and hearing about each parish.
- Finding out what new things were started during COVID and what was been stopped that will not be restarted.
- Listening to priests and parishioners.
- Thanking everyone for their work.
- Describing the roles of the Diocesan Pastoral Co-ordinator and the Diocesan Pastoral Council.
The working group looked at how we support and develop PPCs and highlighted the role of PPCs as:
- Collaborating in planning the way forward for a parish in the light of the circumstances of the parish.
- Working in the context of the Gospel, the teaching of the Church, the “signs of the times” and the reflections of the members of the community.
It met with a sub-committee of the Council of Priests regarding practical development of PPCs.
Synodality – communion. participation, mission
In March 2021, the Irish Bishops Conference announced a new Synodal Pathway for the Catholic Church in Ireland leading to a National Synod Assembly in the next five years. The next two years will be a period of prayer, reflection and discernment involving a national consultative conversation on, ‘For a synodal church: communion, participation and mission’. Bishops initially sought submissions on what methods to use during the next two years of conversations.
The Council made a submission to the Irish Bishop’s initial consultation May 2021. It also discussed and prepared a paper for the Bishop focusing on the following questions:
- What do we believe are key ways of developing serious conversations within the Diocese and its parishes?
- What are the hard-to-reach constituencies/ demographics from whom we need to hear?
- What help does this diocese need from the national church to help us to do our best in this Diocese?
Covid-19 next steps
Council members attended Zoom meetings with parishes to listen to what had been happening during COVID.
There was also discussion of how to support people who had been bereaved during the pandemic, especially those who were unable to be with their loved ones when they died, attend a wake or be at a funeral mass.
Lizzie Rea attended a Council meeting to outline how Diocesan youth ministry had changed to using social media with an increased number (>100 per session) of young people linking into discussion sessions regularly.
The Council reached out to the health service to discuss their learning from the first COVID surge before the re-opening of churches.
Linking with other Diocesan Groups
The Council began to meet with representatives from other Diocesan Groups as well as individuals in Diocesan roles. This will support and better inform us in our own role in assisting the Bishop. It will also assist with synergistic working. It welcomed the establishment of an overarching Diocesan Governance Committee. There is formal two-way feedback between the Diocesan Council of Priests and the Diocesan Pastoral Council.
The Columban Year
The Council felt it was important to leave a Diocesan legacy from this Columban Year despite the restrictions due to the COVID pandemic. It looked at resources, mainly educational, used in the previous Columban celebration but felt that individuals are stretched and these could not be developed.
It was agreed that our legacy would be the establishment of Lectio Divina Groups across the Diocese. This connects to Columban spirituality, will develop opportunities to pray together at parish level and support individuals to become more familiar with scripture. This work will begin in September 2021 when a small group of individuals (linking with the Diocesan Catechetical Centre) will offer practical training to individuals in each parish who want to lead this process locally. Marguerite Hamilton was our link with other groups established to plan for the Columban Year.
The Council continued to work with the Diocesan Pastoral Co-ordinator in identifying and promoting monthly themes for prayer. Themes included
- September – Creation
- October – Mission
- November - All Souls
- December – Advent and Christmas.
On-line videos on social media, activities, prayers and talks with individuals across the Diocese were developed by the Diocesan Pastoral Co-ordinator as part of this work,
The Council responded to the following consultation exercises:
- Consultation on a preferred option for engagement in a conversation process about the Synod (Irish Bishops, May 2021).
- Derry Diocesan Environmental Strategy (Diocesan Laudato Si Group, May 2021).
Sr Johanna Horgan, Good Shepherd Sister, retired from the Council. We thank Sr Johanna for her dedicated work on the Council and wish her well in her new work in Cork.
In May and June 2021, the Council attended four sessions on individual and group discernment and Ignatian Spirituality. This was to support Council members in working together, listening and decision-making as we walk together towards the National Synod.
Anne Friel (Chair)
Derry Diocesan Pastoral Council