26th Pobal Dé Conference – 18th February 2012

‘How Can We Rebuild Our Church?’

Open Forum Conference Notes




With an attendance of over 80 people, the Conference theme was addressed by three speakers as follows:


The papers presented by each speaker are available but this report does not propose to reiterate the points addressed. It will however present an overview of the question and answer session that followed each presentation, which were lively and robust.

Following the inputs from the speakers, conference participants broke into small groups to address the question;

‘What can we do to rebuild our Church?’

There were ten groups and each group presented two key points back to the main forum which was followed by an open discussion session. The outcomes from this session are outlined in this report. Comment and input was wide ranging but the paper reflects a summary of the debate and discussion which took place

Finally it should be noted that this report is intended to augment and complement the recording of the conference undertaken by Eist on behalf of Pobal De. Discs are available and provide a comprehensive and detailed note of all conference proceedings and outcomes.


A: Conference Speakers – Questions and Answers


Questions Raised:




Overview of Ann’s Response to Questions:

Anne did not wish to get into defending the Church but did not accept the concept of ‘thought policing’ indicating that “nobody can ‘unbaptise’ me”. The discipline of the Church however is another matter.

The movement, through the Parish Councils for example, are indicators of life. There is a real problem in our theological methods, there being a need for us to become theologically learned and knowledgeable to enable us to argue the case.

As a model of working for change, Anne made reference to the ‘Swiss Cheese’ method – we can only push walls when we fill the spaces available to us. Local authority can go wherever the local incumbent takes it – get informed, find the norms, call people - including pastors - to conversation.

Finally, in the system as a whole there is enormous fear, pain, uncertainty and disenchantment. No one has ownership on this. We all have to work together.



Questions Raised:




Overview of Fr. James Response to Questions:

In relation to being a part of the decision making processes, sadly he does not see us being part of it. Church renewal needs to come from the ground up but there is a sense that with Parish Councils, we are putting the roof on before we have addressed the foundation. There is a need to speak out and speak your word.

It is important to be ecumenical and inclusive in the celebration of the communion of the Eucharist. There are many examples of small human communities, such as those in East Africa, and these are critically important. They are ecumenical communities.

There are communities where there is apathy and as a means of addressing this Fr. James would encourage groups of all kinds, whether religious or secular. There is a need for communities of communities. There is a difference between groups and communities, the former can come and go, but communities tend to remain. The building of communities, however small can begin to address apathy.

We need to rebuild and revitalise. Hierarchical community is an oxymoron and a contradiction in terms. We need to befriend one another in God. God is community and Jesus modelled that community. If we are not a part of the decision making how can we be a part of the community?


Questions Raised:





Overview of Gary’s Response to Questions:

We do have individual responsibilities – we should be out there and trying to energise and revitalise in our own way. We are all different and we all come in different ways. It would be good to see a whole Christian community which is inclusive and all encompassing.

If structures are good, relationships will follow. If relationships are good and true, they will not tolerate poor structures. Are we going to go for relationships or go for structural change which is not coming from the top down?

Media have a very real role to play. In particular we need a strong Catholic media as secular papers become less interested. We do not have a good history of discussion and debate. We need to address this and media have a role to play in this.


B. Conference Participants – Their Views

Addressing the question ‘What can we do to rebuild our church?’, the feedback from the small group sessions highlighted the following as possibilities and options for the future:







Finally, there was a clear sense that the voice of the people as outlined through the feedback above should not be lost. There is a need to build on the discussions of the conference, taking the thinking and comment forward and continue to build a voice for the people within their church.



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