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Important step in journey towards greater lay involvement in Church this Wednesday

Important step in journey towards greater lay involvement in Church this Wednesday

21 lay people complete Lay Ministry programme

Monday, April 3, 2023: Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy has said that the special ceremony this week to celebrate the first Limerick group to its Lay Ministry programme is a positive signpost to the future of the Church here.

Speaking ahead of Wednesday night’s Chrism Mass – the commencement of Easter celebrations – when 21 lay people will have their ‘sending forth’ ceremony at St. John’s Cathedral, Bishop Leahy said the timing of this celebration is strongly symbolic.

The Church is embarking on a new journey in terms of ministry, a journey that brings hope, just like Easter offers us the hope of the Resurrection. Easter is the great dawn, the moment when we can begin again, seeing things with new eyes and that’s very much in keeping with the completion of the first round of our Lay Ministry Lay Pastoral Ministry and Leadership programmes,” said Bishop Leahy.

“We are starting something new, something good that is going to enrich our Church.”

The 21 lay people have completed the programme of Formation in Lay Ministry and Leadership, which has been run in conjunction with the Institute of Pastoral Studies at Mary Immaculate College. The programme ran over 30 months and covered elements of personal development, pastoral experience, academic learning and spiritual development.

The voluntary roles the lay leaders will be taking up will include involvement in local parish initiatives, such as assisting in sacramental preparation, leading opportunities to pray with scripture, develop music ministry, provide funeral team ministry and bereavement support.

Others will be engaged in activities beyond the local parish, including generating further awareness around our responsibilities in the environmental crisis, assisting in Cuan Mhuire Addiction Centre or with the GROW Mental Health organization, providing catechesis to children.

Some will also have involvement in creative ways of evangelizing through the Alpha Programme, which provides tools, training, and resources to bring about renewal in the church in Ireland, or by developing small Christian Communities. There is also an awareness of issues around social justice and some participants will provide outreach to Ukrainian refugees while another is working as a Trócaire volunteer.

Bishop Leahy added: “In one way, this journey is being forced on us because of the huge fall-off in vocations over recent decades. But there is something deeper going on. It is also happening because today we recognise the enormous, positive contribution that lay people can make on the basis of Baptism and how they are central to the journey the Church is now on.

“Specifically, it is happening because it is one of the key recommendations from our own Limerick Diocesan Synod from 2016 and, of course, synodality means ‘journeying together’. It is also very much in keeping with Pope Francis’ Synod, which has been a global conversation around the Church’s mission going forward.

“So we are on a journey and journeys have many, many steps. Locally, Wednesday night’s ceremony to mark the completion of lay ministry studies of 21 people in our diocese is a very important and, indeed, joyous step.”

The ceremony will be a new element to the Chrism Mass that sees priests, religious and lay people from across the Diocese come together in St. John’s Cathedral for the start of Easter celebrations. At the Chrism Mass priests renew their promises taken at ordination and the Bishop blesses oils that will be used throughout the year at Baptisms, Confirmations and the Anointing of the Sick and Dying.

Also this week, on Holy Thursday evening, Bishop Leahy will go to the Cuan Mhuire Addiction, Bruree, to celebrate the Lord’s Supper.

On Good Friday Bishop Leahy will join a public ecumenical ritual of carrying a large Cross in solemn pilgrimage through the streets of Limerick starting from St. John’s Cathedral at 12 noon and going to St. Mary’s Cathedral. There will be six “stations” along the way at each one of which prayers will be said for those for whom Jesus Christ had a particular love, the sick, those on the margins of society, the bereaved, prisoners, those in despair, and the young. Anyone who is taking part in the pilgrimage will be able to carry the cross, if they wish, for a part of the walk. Bishop Leahy will then preside at the Passion of the Lord commemoration in St. Joseph’s Church at 3 pm.

Bishop Leahy will celebrate the Easter Vigil at 9 pm in St. John’s Cathedral while on Easter Sunday morning he will celebrate Mass in Limerick Prison.