Fr Joe launches plans to reform the church

By Maurice Garvey

IT WOULD be an understatement to say lapsed Catholics could do with a faithful jumpstart to get back involved with the Church.

This crucial spark might be showing signs of life in a small Ballyfermot enclave, after St Matthew’s parish priest Fr Joe McDonald established plans for a reform initiative.

Fr Joe McDonald 6

Fr Joe McDonald has formed the Roncalli Project

Fr Joe launched his Roncalli Community/Project on October 11 at St Matthew’s, and has made it clear it is “not an alternative church” but a community of men and women who want to serve the church.

“It’s about trying to open up reform for discussion – the Church is not in a good place,” said Fr Joe, who cites decreasing numbers and an awareness that the Church has “hurt people”.

Among the many ideas for the Roncalli initiative are the inclusion of women at every level in the church, including governance, reform of clergy including refresher courses, the closure of seminaries and half the churches in the diocese, selling church land solely for social housing, revamping confession, restoration of midnight mass, and a greater welcome for the LGBTI+ community.

However, it is not expected to be plain sailing - Fr Joe stating efforts to discourage his plans intensified prior to the launch.

“The biggest difficulty has been priests,” said Fr Joe.

“A lot of older priests have been more supportive, I think they see the need for change. But it’s not change for the sake of it. Why are we not getting any vocations, the numbers in seminaries are very low, 24/25 in the whole country.

"Why are we not attracting the younger crowd, bar the special occasions?”

'Set up a new community of women and men who serve the church'

Fr Joe named Roncalli after Pope John XXIII (Angelo Roncalli), who opened the Second Vatican Council in 1962.

“He was a good as anybody, a good reformer Pope,” said Fr Joe, whose idea has taken shape over the last three years.

“It is early days but the plan is to set up a new community of women and men who serve the church. One day in Ballyfermot, three churches will become one because it is not sustainable.

"The idea is for the men and women to live together and serve the Ballyfermot area. We‘d be looking for a house.

“A strange word of criticism has been the word schism. They are afraid it will split the Church. My position is clear. I love the Church but it needs to be critical.”

The next Roncalli meeting is Thursday, November 22, in St Matthew’s, from 7-9 pm.

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