Why Parish Clusters?
It is probably appropriate to remind ourselves about why the Clustering Initiative is being undertaken. In setting up the process, the Archbishop identified the need for a raised consciousness on issues that we are facing, namely the changing pattern of religious practice in our communities and a shortage of priest being generated in our communities for the number of parishes that currently exist.
The Clustering Initiative is intended to encourage parishes to share our experience and expertise to raise attention to the issues that the Church is facing. Hopefully in time this will lead to solutions that the parishes themselves have identified and can take ownership of. It is seen as the first three years of a 10 year Archdiocesan planning and development process.
Initially, there was much concern that Clustering was simply a precursor to parish closures and amalgamations. While this cannot be ruled out in the medium to long term for some parishes, this is not the primary motivation for the initiative. The issues facing us are much deeper. To quote the Archbishop:
“If it is a crisis, it is a spiritual crisis. It is a crisis of the reality of the faith and of the Church in people’s lives, of the handing on of faith, and of the depth of faith needed to generate vocations to the priesthood.” (Archbishop’s Address to the Deans, 28th June 2016).
What’s happened so far?
Initially four parishes were clustered: St Andrew’s, St Benedict’s, St Joseph’s and St Laurence’s. We organised an inaugural Spiritual Event, a Mass in St Benedict’s on 3rd March. This was well attended (full!) and an uplifting experience for all participants. Following the Mass, St Benedict’s hospitality of sandwiches, cakes and tea provided an opportunity for parishioners to meet and chat about their shared experiences, and mutual friends and acquaintances.
In the Spring, there was a reappraisal of the Cluster Groups and St Laurence’s felt that they could be more successfully accommodated in an alternative Cluster. So our next Cluster event , a Family Barbeque involved the three remaining parishes. This was held in St Andrew’s Church Halls and Garden on Sunday 12th June. We had a large attendance from the three parishes. The food was fantastic, particularly the homemade all-beef beefburgers! We had music and a variety games for children of all ages. And despite a poor forecast, even the weather was mostly kind to us.
As we begin the second year of the initiative, we are seeking to identify areas where the sharing of experiences and expertise may enhance the development of faith and pastoral provision within and across our three parishes. Possible areas for collaborations are RCIA, Catechists, Adult Faith Formation, Youth Initiatives, Liturgy , Social Activities and probably many more – we are open to suggestions!
In addition, as envisaged in the Archdiocesan programme for Clustering, we will be planning another joint spiritual event and another social event. If you have any suggestions/preferences for what we should organise then please pass on your ideas to your Parish Priest or members of your Parish Pastoral Council. We are keen to have - indeed we need - comments or feedback on the Clustering initiative to date or on plans for the future from a wide range of parishioners across all three parishes. Comments/feedback may be sent by e-mail to our Cluster Secretary at:
For ease of sorting, please put “Clustering” in the subject line.
The Clustering Committee:
Parish Clergy plus the following Lay Members:
St Andrew’s: John Heath, Veronica McLaughlin, Chris Donnelly
St Benedict’s: Michael Doherty, Kathleen O’Neil
St Joseph’s: Peter Rossi, Margaret Maxwell, Des McGhee