Have you read “Growing up, growing out”? It is a special five year report produced by priests within the Ordinariate. The aim being to create a strategic document to help us plan together for the future by reflecting honestly on the first five years of Ordinariate life in the UK. What has worked? What is frustrating our development? What needs to change? What needs preserving? You can read a summary of the report by clicking on the front page image on the right.
The report formed the basis of our first ever Kent area lay conference which was held last Saturday at the residence of +Paul Mason, the new Kent area bishop for Southwark Archdiocese. Six priests and several members of the laity gathering together to grapple with the report.
The day was productive and the points raised will now be fed back to the hierarchy. We were joined by Fr. David Waller, dean for the South East, and he summed up the main points raised and gave us a final blessing. It being the fifth anniversary of Catholic ordination for Ordinariate clergy in the Kent area champagne was drunk with luncheon! It is hoped there will be future meetings like this, which are open to anyone associated with the Ordinariate in the Kent area. Diocesan and Ordinariate.
What were the main points raised? Firstly a unanimous belief that the central vision of the Ordinariate MUST be better owned and transmitted. Until this happens all other considerations are secondary. As evidenced by the fact that, in the last five years, those who simply used/viewed the Ordinariate as a way of getting from A to B have met with frustration and have contributed little. But those who have ‘got it’ – understanding that this is a new movement for the future with a special charism – have delighted in it and offered us much. We must ensure this becomes the norm.
The second point to come out of the discussion centred on a need for ownership, resources and energy. Put bluntly one can see how better served the Ordinariate has been where her priests are enabled to live out their vocation. Where they have some sense of autonomy, and where buildings are free for worship according to our liturgy and at a sensible hour. But where clergy are working primarily to cover gaps in a diocese, with little to no autonomy or space and resources with which to promote the Ordinariate, well there it inevitably flounders.We recognised these latter situations, though regrettable, had arisen from need. When the Ordinariate was formed the first priority was simply to house and feed clergy families. But now we must look again at some situations asking if they are truly assisting both diocese and ordinariate? For changes must happen where Ordinariate clergy are housed miles from their people, or asked to work so hard for a diocese that they have no time or energy left to uphold the Ordinariate vision and to celebrate her liturgy.
Another need is for the creation of an effective second tier management. Support for the Ordinary (who we noted is universally liked and who has been given a very hard task) via senior priests who can offer pastoral support to parishes and strategic advice to the church. This is beginning to happen but it needs sharper focus and proper roles provided – that such clergy might work with a proper authority. Unless they are formally recognised how can they intervene and help?
This led to a wider discussion about clerical life. And whilst most clergy seem in good spirits concerns were raised; how do we get the best out of priests lacking any opportunity for healthy progression? How do we ensure dioceses work collaboratively and don’t exploit our lack of resources – pinching priests to cover gaps? (A problem in some dioceses and not others). How can we grow without being offered buildings and presbyteries? Where will our pension provision come from? How can we support clergy in small groups, especially those with families, often at the bottom of any deanery line for lucrative stipends and stole fees? Resources…always we come back to this. But it is a genuine problem.
Many other things came to light over the course of the day, including how we battle a widespread apathy in the modern culture to actually get our lay folk together? Doubtless our local area dean, Fr. Lindlar, will produce a comprehensive summary of the day for better scrutiny. But the idea here was to give a flavour of the day. A conference fuelled by the excellent report ‘Growing up, growing out.’ I really do commend it to ordinariate clergy and lay people, and those who worship with us- please read it!
And having highlighted some of the challenges faced it must be said that the overall sentiment and mood was extremely upbeat. Everyone felt that joining the Catholic church has been an extraordinary and grace filled blessing. We all have witnessed miraculous moments and there is a genuine vibrancy about the Ordinariate. ‘It has something of the early church about it’ said one wise head. And indeed the most positive news is that we have been able to write this report at all. For, in truth, our limited resources should have ensured failure long ago. But we do not fail. Rather we go from strength to strength, continually punching above our weight, and bit by bit foundations are building. It will take years for us to see the end result. But nobody doubts that God is with us and, therefore, the future is bright. Please pray for us and support us.