In this week’s blog Fr Paddy writes about attending the recent inaugral meeting of the new Association of Catholic Priests in Portlaoise.

Fr. Paddy Byrne has a weekly column in the Nationalist papers.
This column appeared in the edition published Sept 22 2010.

Recently I attended the new Association of Catholic Priests. I found this meeting to be an uplifting and very hopeful experience. Over 300 hundred priests gathered, in the spirit of renewal and an earnest desire for change, regarding structures that so often choke and restrain gifts of freedom and creativity.  The Priesthood, I believe, as a way of life, in service to our local Christian communities, is a most fulfilling and relevant one.  This association of clergy hopes to articulate its relevance to our society.  The relevance of the priesthood is felt most, when we embrace the radical direction the Gospel points us towards.  Jesus of Nazareth embraced those who were “Outside,” those who carried the baggage of prejudice, judgment, criticism and gossip.  His love radically embraced “The sick not the healthy, sinners not the virtuous” Priesthood renewed in the liberating and transforming message of Jesus Christ is most relevant and very necessary.  Relevant, in the business of embracing those who find themselves on the margins, because of so many different circumstances.  Peter McVerry, friend of the Dublin homeless, suggested that this is the direction that the Lord points us toward at this time.

At his inauguration address, President Barrack Obama invited the American people to

“Lay your hand on the arc of history and bend it once more into the hope of a new day.”

Similarly, over Thirty years ago, Pope John Paul II, speaking to the young people of Ireland, said

“Every generation is a new continent for Christ”

This is an opportune time where so many institutions and people are starved of hope to be nourished from a God whose abundance and plenty can renew and transform our lives.

Fifty years ago, the Roman Catholic Church heard the beginning of a great unlocking sound when Pope John XXIII announced that he was calling a Council of the Church (what was to become the Second Vatican Council). Pope John used over and over again the word “pastoral’ to describe the purpose of the Council- in other words the focus was to be on the people not on the institution. The Catholic Church had lost touch with the world and needed to open its windows and let in a bit of fresh air. It needed the breath and energy of, what Pope John called, “A new Pentecost.” Pope John wanted a Council that would bring the Church out of the isolation of centuries and allow it to proclaim the Gospel anew. He wanted above all to place the people – “The People of God” – at the centre of the Church and to set in train a consequent reform of church structures.  His earnest desire was for the Church to become more human, less rigid and more open. Fifty years ago this prophetic moment by Pope John, seemed to be saying that a new and different Church was not just possible but necessary. He was saying, despite the control and oppressiveness of church life, that reform was possible; he effectively was saying “Yes we can”

This radical vision was never fully implemented or embraced. It gives me heart and encouragement to be part of a movement of priests, who earnestly desire with so many good people the possibility of renewal and change.