The Role Of Pastoral Areas

Photo shows members of the Pastoral Area Coordinating Group from Our Lady Crowned, St Joseph’s and St Patrick’s parishes planning together for the future needs of the area.

In 2009 Cork & Ross diocese published ‘Guidelines for Pastoral Area Coordinating Groups’ and committed to reviewing, and updating these guidelines as necessary, after three years of their promulgation. These Guidelines set down the following parameters.


    The remit of the Pastoral Area Coordinating Group “includes aspects of the Church’s mission that can best be coordinated at pastoral area level rather than by a parish in isolation.” Members of the Pastoral Area Coordinating Group are asked “to reflect on issues that will affect the parishes of the area now and in the near future and to plan and act so that all constituent parishes may respond collectively and effectively.”


    “The Pastoral Area Coordinating Group does not have autonomous decision making authority and therefore may not make decisions for the constituent parishes and faith communities.”


    “ The Pastoral Area Coordinating Group will identify issues of common concern to the parishes, explore and propose creative and effective collaborative responses to them, and if a consensus is reached by the Pastoral Area Coordinating Group, then make a recommendation to the parishes.”


    “The Pastoral Area Coordinating Group meeting is convened by the Coordinator of the Pastoral Area on a regular basis throughout the year and will chair the meeting.

Pastoral areas are more than a Pragmatic Response to the Declining Number of Clergy.

In 2011, the Council for Pastoral Renewal and Adult Faith Development of the Bishops’ Conference, published a document entitled ‘Grouping Parishes for Mission: An Exploration of Key Issues’ [published by Veritas]. It explores the various theological and pastoral dimensions of Pastoral Areas and insists that:

    The emerging vision of a Pastoral Area goes well beyond being a pragmatic response to perceived crises, including the reduction in the numbers of ordained priests available for parish ministry. The development of Pastoral Areas can have a three-fold purpose: to enable the Christian mission of the communities involved, to facilitate greater sharing of resources, and to promote learning through reflection on experience. Thus the introduction of Pastoral Areas has the capacity to strengthen community, enable co-responsibility and provide support and growth for individual parishes.

Areas of Common Concern that parishes within a Pastoral Area might seek to respond to collaboratively.

The following list is neither exhaustive nor definitive. These are offered simply as examples of issues that some pastoral areas have addressed in response to the particular needs of the parishes in their own area.

Formation Initiatives: Training for Ministers of the Word and Eucharist, Formation / Training for Choirs, Adult Faith Programmes ,Scripture Programmes, Training for Parish Baptism Groups,Training for Parish Secretaries.

Liturgy / Worship Initiatives A shared rota for responsibility for Advent / Lent Reconciliation Services, Pulpit Sharing on particular Sunday(s) of years together with an exchange between Parish Choirs, Co-ordination of the timing of Parish Missions within an area, Retreat Days for parishioners in general or particular ministries, Prayer Gatherings for Young Adults [Taize, etc.], Cemetery Mass celebrated as a Pastoral Area when there is a cemetery common to many of the parishes.

Clergy Coordination holidays to facilitate cover from within Pastoral Area, Arrange cover for contingencies like days off, sickness, family circumstances, etc.

Sharing of Resources Publication of a Pastoral Area calendar, sharing large expenditure items (e.g. Colour Multicopier for Newsletter Printing, etc.) across neighbouring parishes to maximise return, jointly contracting technical support for setting up website(s), etc.

Other Pilgrimages at pastoral area level, Gatherings for Young Adults, Ongoing formation for clergy and parish leadership groups, Jointly resourcing initiatives to deal with particular issues within our communities: e.g. suicide, parenting, unemployment, etc.

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