Mental health and related issues such as suicide and depression were the biggest issue raised by secondary school students in Limerick in the first opinion poll of its kind ever carried out in this country.
The Diocese of Limerick has celebrated a Diocesan Synod, the first in 80 years. It has been an event of the Holy Spirit, an experience of deep encounter, a time of hope. The image of it that I treasure is one found on our Synod website - the hall in Mary Immaculate College with 400 people, lay, priests, single and married, young and older, gathered together in circles working hard but joyfully at discerning what God was calling us to as a Diocese.
Throughout our preparation for the Synod, the whole Diocese has been learning together to be "synodal", that is, walking together, journeying together, with Jesus among us, as we move forward in hope. When we gathered in April we invited the representatives of other churches and other religions along with representatives of the civic and social agencies of the City and County Council to join us. I felt our gathering was a glimpse of the Church that the Holy Spirit wants to be a community of communities with Jesus among us, serving society at all levels, offering it a soul, wanting to give our spiritual and social contribution that builds up the fabric of society.
I recall more than one person saying to me how moved they were to find themselves sitting side by side with priests, chatting about future directions of the Church. Some young people said to me they were sure if other young people could see this, they would be hugely impressed and really begin to understand more about the Church.
So I thank God for the Synod. It has given us an experience and an image that provide a benchmark in our hearts and minds for the future. With this pastoral letter I now present the Diocesan Plan that has been developed on the basis of the Synod. Before getting into the detail, I would like first of all to offer some perspectives that emerged from the Synod.