Brentwood Diocesan Pastoral Council Plenary Meetings are usually held twice a year. The next one is scheduled for 7. November, 2009.
These meetings discuss diocesan events and support deaneries and parishes. There is also an update from the Bishop. Invitations go to a representative from each parish and deanery. Interested priests and members of various diocesan groups also attend. Those likely to be interested in the topics to be discussed and people involved in various aspects of diocesan life may also be invited.
Plans for November’s plenary meeting include looking at an update on the Pastoral Support Team’s survey of linked parishes and the proposed rationalization of mass times. In addition to his usual “Points from the Bishop”, Bishop Thomas will also be holding a Question and Answer Session for everyone. It is important that your parish is represented at the plenary to maintain two-way communication so make sure your parish has a representative.
..."proposed rationalization of Mass times" ... : presumably a proposal is ready to be put to the Pastoral Council Plenary Meeting. But what principles will underpin the proposal?
Will it be a consideration of the care of souls? Will the proposal include assessments of the likely impact on the lay faithful's attendance at Sunday Mass of the proposed changes? Cut out one Sunday Mass = overcrowd the Church at the other Sunday Masses = at least some who will no longer attend Mass on a Sunday. Make it harder to get to Mass, and some will stop going who otherwise would keep going. One can respond that this represents poor motivation on the part of the now non-attending faithful, and there is some truth in that. But why shouldn't there be an element of outreach and effort for them? Why should it be made harder than is really necessary?
Or perhaps the Church is already overcrowded on a Sunday. Ah, we need to extend the Church .... Oh, we can't afford it. Why can't we have an extra Sunday Mass instead? Canon Law does allow the Bishop to permit a priest to celebrate a third Mass on a Sunday in the case of pastoral need, after all? Oh, but we are short of priests and can't exhaust them. [Aside: well, if they "say the black and do the red", I'm sorry, celebrating Mass is a lot easier than all the stress of ad libs, contrived introductions that force the readings into the penitential rite, and all the other elements of "performance" that can be prevalent amongst precisely those priests who are most worried about this.]
Perhaps a re-orientation in the priorities of the priest is required. As I heard it expressed a month or two ago, clearly with a reference to a situation in one particular parish, but with I suspect a completely analagous application in other parishes and at diocesan level:
Surely the priest should be worrying about the care of souls, not about the parish car park.