In this week’s blog Fr Paddy calls us to remember that the Church is not a far-away place but, lives in the bits and pieces of our daily lives – We are the living Church.

Fr Paddy Byrne has a weekly column in the Nationalist Papers.

This column appeared in the edition published 24th February 2010

In the past week hundreds of people attended our local Parish Novena in Bagenalstown. Last Friday, huge numbers supported local musical talent, in the context of a fundraiser, for St. Lazarians house. Community is the heart of the living Church. Our Parishes are places where we connect with each other and share key moments of our life journey from birth to death. The mission in building our Church begins at local level. The Church is not a far-away place but, lives in the bits and pieces of our daily lives. We are the living Church.

Last week I wrote about some of my expectations and hopes concerning the Irish Hierarchies visit to meet Pope Benedict in Rome. I was greatly encouraged by many people who communicated to me similar expectations concerning this very crucial dialogue between the Pope and the Irish Church. One week later, many people are greatly disappointed with the visit and lack of real dialogue taking place. Many members of the Church are struggling greatly in relation to the poor leadership that is been given by Bishops at this very important moment in our time.

The image of elderly men, donned in their Episcopal finery, kissing the Popes ring is reminiscent of 12th Century behavior. Cut off from the reality of life, in palatial residence, discussing the future of our Church, which many of us hold dear to our hearts, was a very poor P.R. exercise and is very worrying. I felt our voice and representation as the People of God was tangibly absent from the meeting. All we received was images, we heard nothing about content. This meeting examined important issues, including, child protection, lay involvement and the role of women in the mission of the Church.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin speaks about this meeting as the beginning of a very important process. I really hope that this process will connect to all the members of the Church. In order for the Irish Church to be relevant and remain alive, it must fundamentally examine our structures of leadership. At a ground level, our parish Christian communities are alive and active, many continue to embrace and find relevance in participating in their local Church. It is at Diocesan and national level where many of us feel disconnected from and indeed excluded when it comes to representation, discussion and leadership.

Why cant we have a National Church Leadership Council, representative of all our members, in navigating the stormy waters we find ourselves in this present moment? A storm is an abundant force of energy. It will only be through a creative and enthusiastic vision that our Church will be relevant and attractive to our younger generation. Perhaps it was not by accident that Jesus came to visit the early Church in stormy seas. His message was

Do Not Be Afraid.

Jesus of Nazareth is the center of our Church. A humble, poor young man who lived in a dusty and unknown village. It is his simplicity, humility and integrity that will steer us into fresh waters. I am a fulfilled and happy priest because of this just as so many remain faithful to your local Church at this time.