A group of over 20 parishioners of SFX Gardiner Street in Dublin gathered to address both the renewal of parish life and the Irish Church at large on 7 November 2018. The evening followed an invitation by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin to Parish Priests and Parish Pastoral Councils calling on each parish community to organize a parish forum to discern the way forward.
The conversation centred on the Archbishop’s letter from 3 September, in which he called each parish to explore the following question: “Where do we go forward now in the challenge of renewing the faith we carry in our own hearts and renewing the life of the Church?” He added: “Each parish and parish community can find its own path of reflection, with the help of the Parish Pastoral Council. The aim is not to provide instant answers but at least to begin to set out a realistic agenda for renewal of the Church in the years to come.”
The forum was led by Father Gerry Clarke SJ, the Parish Priest who began this discernment process by quoting Pope Francis, who even in difficult times calls people to Christian joy: “Joy adapts and changes, but it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved.” Fr Clarke pointed out that ultimately Francis has challenged the faithful to see the church as an evangelizing church, or in other words, a community of believers that spreads the joy of the Gospel.
Attendees at the forum also drew from two talks which took place in the parish during the month of October. Gerry O’Hanlon SJ presented ‘The Quiet Revolution of Pope Francis’ which questioned if the ‘synodal church’, a culture of consultation and communal discernment at every level, is part of the answer. He explained what the Pope is proposing and offered texts for reflection and discussion in groups. In ‘The Art of Spiritual Discernment’, Brendan Comerford SJ explained the principles of discernment that Pope Francis is encouraging the faithful to practice and offered some case studies to help make it concrete.
Parishioner Max Rosner who attended the forum gave some feedback. “In the spirit of heeding both the Pope’s and the Archbishop’s call, the parishioners proposed dozens of ideas, especially ones focused on transmitting the faith to younger generations.”
He continued: “As the conversation neared its end in the Blessed John Sullivan Room, the discernment process began to address even larger questions. What is the Church? What is the life of the Church? What is worth perpetuating in the life of the Church?”
In the shadow of these looming questions, the evening concluded in prayer and thanksgiving.