Pastoral Areas are groupings of neighbouring parishes that look to support each other and to cooperate with one another to better serve the communities of the area.
The diocese of Cork & Ross is currently divided into seventeen pastoral areas where representatives of each parish, together with their clergy, meet a number of times a year to explore areas of Church’s mission that might best be coordinated at a pastoral area level by a number of parishes together rather than by a parish in isolation. By drawing on the combined gifts and resources of all the parishes involved the pastoral area is often able to propose an effective response where the benefit rebounds on all the communities of the area. These proposals are then discussed by each parish within their own parish pastoral council or parish pastoral assembly, and if there is agreement, the parishes of the pastoral area then work together in responding to the area of shared pastoral concern that they have identified.
The Pastoral Area Co-ordinating Group.
This is the name given to the group that gathers to look at what issues the pastoral area might focus on at any given time. It is made up of the following representatives from each parish: two representatives from the parish pastoral council or parish pastoral assembly nominated by the group, one representative from the parish finance committee nominated by the committee, appointed parish sisters and all clergy in the area who hold appointments from the bishop. The meetings of the Pastoral Area Co-ordinating Group are convened by and chaired by the Coordinator of the Pastoral Area, who is appointed by the bishop to coordinate the collaborative pastoral action of the parish communities within the pastoral area.
Why do we need Pastoral Areas?
The grouping together of parishes in Pastoral Areas is a relatively new development and signifies a significant change for both individual parishes and the diocese. It is rooted in two pressing needs: firstly, our commitment as a diocese to building a renewed spirit of co-operation among the entire Church as People of God and, secondly, from the need to plan for the rapidly decreasing number of priests and religious ministering in the diocese. St Paul used the image of the human body to exhort the early Christian community to recognise that, just like the parts of the body, we need each other and that it is only by working together and co-operating with one another for the good of all, that we can effectively respond to the challenges and opportunities that we encounter in life. The call to work together as the ‘body of Christ’ remains at the heart of our Christian calling today.