New Bishop reveals his vision for 'Church of the future'

The new Bishop elect to the Diocese of Kilmore envisages a time when there will be more lay-people in roles of pastoral care than there are priests.

Fr Martin Hayes, who replaces the retired Bishop Leo O'Reilly, and will be formally ordained in the role later this week, September 20, made the comments when speaking exclusively to The Anglo-Celt.

Its transition to more committed community involvement, Fr Hayes believes, is the “church of the future” and follows on from the work he had been doing as Director of Pastoral Planning and Development in his native Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly.

Following widespread consultation, involving both priests and laity, a draft pastoral plan was formulated there, the contents of which will be implemented between now and 2025.

The plan sets out a pathway for members of the lay community, after a grounding in formation, to step-up in assisting the daily workings of the church.

It's hoped the move will alleviate the pressure on a church faced with dwindling numbers of priests, and no shortage of demand.

Including almost all of Co Cavan and a portion of Counties Leitrim, Fermanagh, Meath and Sligo, the Diocese of Kilmore has a Catholic population of approximately 69,000. It is served by around 51 active priests, and 18 retired, who minister in 35 parishes comprising of 95 churches.

“There are less priests now and there is a danger, because of the pressures, that guys will morph and shrink into their role only,” says Fr Hayes.

“I see the priest as part of a circle. Everyone is equal. He's in the circle, working, and his role is to bring out the best of the gifts of the people around him.”

Fr Hayes accepts it will be “strange” at first for some to see lay people engaged in pastoral ministry assignments, traditionally the reserve of priests. But he assures that those answering the call will be given a grounding in liturgy, training, before being assigned placements.

“Obviously they have to be accepted by their communities, and by other priests in their new roles of collaboration,” he said.

Some of those willing to act in roles of pastoral care alongside priests will work “full time” in the community, “others as volunteers, but all receiving some type of formation.”

Fr Hayes, a native of Two-Mile-Borris in Tipperary will become Bishop of Kilmore, in an ordination ceremony at the Cathedral of Saints Patrick and Felim in Cavan Town on Sunday, September 20, at 3pm.

Full interview with Fr Hayesin this week's print edition of The Anglo-Celt.