Priests and Lay people discuss reform in Ireland

Written By BFC


April 22, 2015


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Last week in Ireland, nearly 40 leaders of priest associations and lay reform groups gathered in Limmerick for an open ended meeting to explore opportunities for working together. Leaders from several European countries as well as some of our friends from the U.S. reform movement were part of the conversations and there is no doubt that the wisdom they bring back will affect our coalition work.

The event was hosted by the Irish Association of Catholic Priests. Fr. Tony Flannery, a leader of ACP, described the meeting on his blog, “What was most notable for me from the evening was the energy around the place. This is an amazing collection of people. They are so bring and full of life; they clearly care enormously for our Church; and they are full of ideas about how we might move forward.”

The gathering was a unique opportunity for laity and priests to forge strong relationships and envision working together to build a better Church. In small groups they discussed the issues important to them and found common ground on issues like the need for family diversity at the Synod, the importance of environmental justice, and a call for “more accountability from the hierarchy and respect for the rights of all Catholics to participate fully in the life of the Church.”

Many participants have posted reflections on their own blogs and all mention the powerful and honest conversation that was had about issues of women’s equality in the Church. When it was recommended that a woman co-preside at the closing Eucharist celebration, Women’s Ordination Conference’s Kate McElwee says the discussion brought forward “an intensity and a raw pain, a brokenness, that I am not sure I have ever witnessed in such a broad spectrum.”

Deb Rose- Milavec of FutureChurch describes the conversation as “like no other I’ve experienced among priests and lay women and men. Thirty-eight women and men wrestled with the question for several hours. With the guidance of our skilled facilitators, we held the space open as each person expressed their support, concern, pain and, yes, fear.”

In the end, rather than have a Mass, the group powerfully decided to create something new. “A very insightful prayer group formed after our conversation and prepared a prayer ritual for us, using bread and wine as symbols that we would not partake in together.” says Kate.  Deb described the symbolism, “The wine and bread placed on the altar was not shared, a symbol of the painful reality of women’s place in the Church and the divisions that tear at the heart of our communities. And all thirty-eight of us took a candle and placed it on the altar, a sign of our solidarity with women in the Church and our hope for a healed, whole and just Church where women can participate fully as co-equals.”



  • Mary Jo Canar says:

    Thank you for the description of the moment when the pain of our differences in thinking was realized. Thanks, too, for describing the response to this situation, without cover-up, but with such an open, loving action. May we have more such experiences as we become the church we want to be—-

  • Jeanni B. Page says:

    As an 86 yr. old cradle Catholic I am now worshiping in an Episcopal church where I feel welcome and cared for and one which is progressive like the Catholic Church I belonged to when I lived in AZ. I have been divorced and suffered greatly at the hands of priests who had no idea what the word compassion means!

  • James O'Leary says:

    In my trips to Ireland I was able to ask some young Irish people if they had any idea of what it was like for Irish immigrants to America. They were not in the least impressed that I was “four corner” Irish and they were so used to tourists they in no way considered me an authority on things Irish. I did get away with saying that we American Irish weren’t throwing away our faith at the rate they were. (This was in Dublin.) I said that my four grandparents arrived in the States with no money, no skills and little education. (One of my grandmothers was illiterate.) I said that all we had was our Catholic faith and it was enough for us. We thrived. We owed the Church everything. It was our lifeline. We stuck together and at least some of us know where we came from and that the Church was, and is, the pearl of great price.