Change taking shape as greater lay involvement in the Church emerges – Bishop Leahy

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LIMERICK Diocese’s ongoing adaption for a more lay-involved future in leadership and ministry will see 23 women and men take on pastoral roles shortly, Bishop Brendan Leahy has revealed.

As the diocese continues its ongoing evolution into a more inclusive and shared Church, the women and men are set to complete their Lay Pastoral Ministry and Leadership programmes and will also be able to assist with pastoral opportunities when their training concludes.

Bishop Leahy also issued an invitation to new candidates to step forward for the roles and said that the Diocese will host information evenings later in the Autumn.

In addition to these roles, Bishop Leahy also invited candidates interested in taking up roles as permanent deacons across the diocese to step forward. Deacons had a ministry in the early Church, he said, which focused on service, both within the church community helping in the administration of the Diocese and in reaching out to the marginalised in society.

“Gradually, they also helped out in some liturgical functions like performing baptisms or presiding at weddings and preaching. For a long time, this ministry practically died out. The Second Vatican Council, however, proposed the ministry should be re-vamped,” he said.

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“Several Dioceses now have deacons, with about 100 overall in Ireland. At our Limerick Diocesan Synod in 2016, it was agreed we might explore developing the ministry of deacons in our Diocese. So, at this point I would ask for expressions of interest from men over 35 years of age, married or single.

“Indeed, one of the interesting features of this ministry is that most deacons are married with families so their experience can bring a particular help to families. If interested, please write to me at the Diocesan Office.”

While only men can be ordained Deacons at present, a commission is currently studying the question of a female deaconate. This followed the suggestion by the 2019 Synod of Bishops on the Amazon, which had recommended that women be considered for certain ministries in the church, including the permanent diaconate.

Bishop Leahy also revealed that three women and two young men from the Diocese of Limerick have joined religious orders. Currently, there is one seminarian preparing to be ordained a priest of the Diocese, Tim Collins, from Croagh parish, who is studying in St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth.

“We are at a time of great change for the Church. While this change has coincided with huge decline in the vocations to priesthood and religious life over recent decades, the move to a more inclusive Church of many different ministries is the Holy Spirit at work. So, we must conclude that while change can sometimes be difficult to achieve, it is what is set out for us and what is right. It is up to all us, clergy and lay people now to make this change happen.”