The population of the Diocese continues to fall and the age profile of the clergy
means that in the future there will be fewer priests to serve less people. In the
light of these factors the Archbishop decided that the Diocese should be consulted
about the way forward. This consultation became known as “Leaving Safe Harbours”
because it was initiated on the Sunday when the Gospel reading was Matthew 14: 22-23.
After a 12 month consultation period the Archbishop gave his blessing to the proposals.
The Diocese was sub-divided into the new units of Pastoral Areas. Each Pastoral Area
(and there are 24) would comprise of approximately 20,000 Catholics and in the future
would be served by 4 or 5 priests. This change of name was not simply a re-organisation
based on geography and demography; it was a conscious decision to encourage evangelisation,
to develop new ways of working together collaboratively, to use better our limited
resources and to deepen faith and love.
Two developments which provide great hope for the future are: the meetings of Pastoral
Area Leaders (formerly Deans) and the Pastoral Area Working Groups that have been
set up in each Pastoral Area. The quality of collaboration and the honest sharing
of problems and challenges has characterised the meetings of Pastoral Area Leaders.
These are held every 2 months. The Archbishop is always present.
Pastoral Area Working Groups are asked to meet 6 times a year. From these groups
people are coming forward to assist in the mission of the Church.