Notes from the Day

Notes from “Limerick: What is our Mission?”

Welcome and words of Introduction - Bishop Brendan Leahy.

A Synod is a large assembly of Church representatives that identifies and indicates precise pathways for the Church to follow in coming years.

The Limerick Diocesan Synod will take place in April 2016 with 400 delegates from across Limerick city and county.

The Synod takes place in the context of a new energy and focus on the social and economic regeneration of Limerick City.

Pope Francis uses the word ‘encounter’ a lot. To become a people, we must all make the effort to develop a multifaceted ‘culture of encounter’.

The Church exists to promote a culture of encounter at the service of society as a whole.

This event - “Limerick: What is Our Mission?” - is being held in preparation for the Synod.

You are involved and interested in shaping Limerick’s identity into the future.

You come from the worlds of Business, the Arts, Sport, Media, Healthcare, politics, third level colleges, the City Council, and more.

The purpose of this gathering is to create a dialogue so that the Church can make informed decisions as it moves forward in its mission at the service of the city.

This gathering is important because cities matter to God.

The Bible starts with a garden (the Garden of Eden) and concludes with a city (the new Jerusalem), suggesting that the city manifests God’s project for humanity.

The city envelopes us. It brings people together and facilitates dynamic dialogue and interaction.

The city reflects the life of God himself through mutual love, care and creativity.

Do we need a city mission? Opening Remarks - Dr. Lorna Gold, Trócaire

I’ve never participated in a group before that’s trying to uncover the mission for its city.

When we are asking ourselves new questions, we can come up with really interesting answers and insights. We need to have new conversations that create new encounters between people and come up with something creative and new. We need to have new conversations and take new approaches to solve the big problems that we face today.

This event offers a ‘safe space’ to have those creative conversations.

Today’s topic is - “Limerick What is our Mission?”

The word Mission means a ‘send off’. It can be the business a group is tasked with.

It can also refer to an important goal or purpose that’s accompanied by a strong conviction.

A Mission needs to be owned to be brought to life.

Limerick City Council already has its economic and spatial plan - Limerick 2030.

What are we here for? We’ll discover it as we go along but the real purpose is to start with ourselves as citizens of the city. So today start with your purpose and mission in the city - what connects you with other people in Limerick. Each individual mission has to become a shared mission. You are the leadership among the civic life of the city.

To determine the city’s mission, we have to start with your personal mission and how it connects to the vision and mission of the city. What matters most to us here in Limerick? The mission for the city has to come from within.

It starts with:

  • What do I care most about in our city?
  • What do we value most about Limerick and its people?
  • What do we need to keep and what do we need to change?
  • How can we ensure that what we value most is cherished and valued?

“If we can connect our own personal vision of what we care about in our city to what others care about and find a common ground, we can start to move forward and build a city mission,” Dr Lorna Gold.

Pope Francis talks about cities in his Papal Encyclical on ‘Care for a Common Home’.

He talks about:

  • The chaotic realities that people have to endure in city life.
  • The potential to build sustainable cities.
  • The fact that people make up the city

The paradox of poverty and community-spirit in cities:

“Any place can be turned from being hell on earth to a place where one can live a dignified life,” Pope Francis. The importance of engaging people in planning the development of their communities. The process of integration of communities - how do you create one sense of community within large urban areas?


Round One Discussion Feedback


We can learn more from our experience of what works than what doesn’t. Problems are infinite, but it is from understanding the truly exceptional moments – when we are at our best, where we are connected with what we care deeply about, that we can begin to carve out a future… we begin to uncover what our mission is…

When Limerick is at it’s Best -

Stories and Themes:

The Arts, Education, Sport, Community Spirit

  • The ‘Granny’s visit’ to Limerick as part of the City of Culture - the sun shone for three days, over 200,000 people came to visit Limerick. It was the culmination of a really wonderful event. The Arts
  • Education in Limerick - the universities and the foriegn-national girl who was looked after philanthropically. Education is the binding factor for people across both the city and the world. Education
  • The Spirit of the People - individual story of a girl who shared her employment contract voluntarily with a colleague who lost her job.

Community Spirit

  • Sport - the Heineken Cup Final in Cardiff shown on a big screen in Limerick  - big occasion for the people to come
  • Community Spirit after the flooding - the way people helped one another.
  • Going to the Market on Saturday mornings - a place that brings people of all walks of life together. Community Spirit
  • Sporting volunteers in all the various clubs. One story for a kind and helpful train attendant who was willing to drop a passenger's keys to his home so his wife could get in. Sports/Community

Round 2

What are the commonalities in the stories shared? Which values and attitudes are being expressed when this is happening? What were the key conditions that made those experiences possible?

What had to be in place for these experiences to take place?

Openness, Caring, Vision, Pride, Social Networking

Sense of Safety, Barrierless, Equality, Belonging, Undivided

Fiesta! Celebration, Ritual, Goodness, Empathy

Ownership, City pride

Good weather, Sun

Respect, Generosity, Openness to Change, Humanity, Partnership, Creativity

Good management, Funding, Volunteering, Social interest

Concern, Self-esteem, Confidence, Egoless

Decency, Selfless, Acts of Kindness, Positivity

Action, Responsive to Needs, Willingness, Trust

Round 3 - Worksheets

What needs to happen to make Limerick reflect this more of the time, in more places? What do we need to cherish and where is change necessary?

What should we keep?

Core Christian values, Good memories

An open dialogue, Communication

Investing in education to continuously improve it.

Community, Respect for Clergy, Support for our priests

Level of integration, Partnership, Commitment, Equality

Accessibility, Pride, Organised well run community events

Welcoming community, Commitment to civic activities eg. sport, music, cultural events.

Localisation, Engagement with people, Sense of empathy

Sense of belonging to a unified city, Programmes to support family

Participation, Community Spirit., Generosity, Concern for Others

Happiness, Compassion, Volunteering


What should we change?

Breakdown of factional parts of community, Negative attitudes and perceptions of the Church.

Access to services, Social division, Unemployment, Our approach to addressing the problems

Equality of opportunity, City being a 9 to 5 city.

Provision of youth facilities, Improve consultation with people, Involvement in Church organisation

Improve Awareness of Change in Society

Perception of what education is, Two-tier education system.

Engagement of sporting heroes with the young - let them feel values.

Empower more people to take risks for change.


Inclusion in Church service, Create role models

Views and utilisation of the River Shannon, Suicide prevention measures.

Break down fences between educational settings, Youth inclusion.

Support services to prevent crime, Need to think more local

Get more people involved in community and cultural events - not just the usual suspects.

Lack of confidence, especially about being from the city, Break cycle of poverty/cultural poverty.

People/communities are trapped - how do we help them get out?

Listen to / Learn from Young People more.

Limited thinking

Hold a debate on how the city is run

Church hierarchy, Change/break down perceived barriers

Ensure that the knowledge, experience & wisdom of frontline service workers is brought into policy making.

Join up services

Visual Metaphor

People holding hands - “Together we are strong because we love and respect each other and we take responsibility for ourselves, city and county.

Circles linking together

Final Discussion topic - “How can the Church help to deliver on Limerick’s Mission?”

  • Church could open a dialogue on issues within communities, including educational equality and environmental issues. The Church has a strong influence on how people access education and should include young people more in its discussion.
  • The Church should be run more like a business, with a board of directors. The stakeholders and young people should be well represented on the Church board.
  • The Church could advocate more for opportunity to help people get access to support service and link existing groups.
  • The Church is built on its people, not just its hierarchy. The Church could be an advocate for accessing greater resources.
  • The structure and management of the Church - priests are stretched in their roles - eg. one priest looking after three parishes.
  • Church buildings - how welcoming are they to non Church goers? Open them up to everyone. Use them more for cultural activities.
  • How to make the Church more relevant to more people? The Church needs to seize the opportunity to listen to people more and engage with young people.
  • Role of the Church in the family.
  • The Church’s primary responsibility is to help ensure that we are good ancestors.
  • The Church needs to be more proactive in attracting people in and addressing apathy towards the Church as an institution.


Fr. Éamonn’s closing comments - Where does this thinking go next?

From the outset, the Synod has been about reaching out, engaging, and avoiding becoming ‘Churchy’ in that narrow sense, or inward looking or preoccupied with ‘smaller’ issues. We need to be in dialogue with the world, what we call the secular world.

The methodology today is congruent with our wider Synod process, where we experience Limerick at its best - God is there. We have spoken today about encounter and participation – the challenge for us on this Synod journey is to encounter God and participate with God where He is to be found. Lorna’s style and methodology today has been entirely consistent with that – the Synod Listening encouraged us to recognise where we experience love, truth, goodness, hope and joy and affirm that this is where God is and today we have been sharing stories of when we see Limerick at its best, once again recognising that God is present and active there.

We are now at a particular moment on the Synod process – just last week we identified the themes which we will be bringing forward to the Synod itself. Interestingly these themes resonate with the concerns and issues named here today. Family, Community, Young People, Education, New Models of Leadership and liturgy and Life.

Within these, issues such as equality of opportunity, participation, fairness, mental health and well-being, support for families in all the ways in which families exist today. In the coming weeks we will welcome Sir Harry Burns from Glasgow and along with Dr Brendan O’Keeffe and Dr Eileen Humphries of U.L. will present the social demographic of who we are as People of Limerick. We will then explore what it means to be a People of God.

After Christmas, we need to move on to firm proposals for action. Delegates, a number of whom are present here today, will bring forward definite concrete proposals for action.

Indeed from today’s conversation we can look at action proposals which would aim to move us towards action on the issues raised.

I heard a number of proposals:

  • The Church needs to be open to dialogue – indeed, to open up a dialogue – to facilitate this – to truly listen to the voice of the people, including the maverick voice, the voice from the factory floor.
  • In the Area of Education there is a call for equality of opportunity, particularly in the area of access to Transition Year placements.
  • We need to engage with young people – create another day like today for our young people.
  • The Church could be a focus for advocacy, agitating for equality and inclusion.
  • Support families
  • Nurturing, Belonging, Change all need to be on the agenda.
  • Our spaces (physical) being welcoming and open to being used in new creative ways.
  • All stakeholders should be represented – find new models of leadership.
  • The Diocesan Synod is about reaching out and engaging. We need to be in dialogue with the wider world.

Bishop Brendan, closing comments:

We have to communicate intergenerationally - have dialogue between the young and the old and to listen to their ideas.