The Institute aims to enable the fulfilment of a new vision for the Church in Ireland to meet the current challenges it faces. The Institute will help to build a local Church which is a community of communities and enable the Church in Ireland to exercise its pastoral and social mission of promoting the Kingdom of God. Increasingly pastoral ministry in Ireland occurs within a missionary context. This requires that we move from maintenance to mission and from transactional leadership to transformational leadership.
The Institute aims to translate the theology of the Second Vatican Council into pastoral practice, thus promoting a Church in which all can take their appropriate role in the local faith community.
The Institute operates at the interface between the academic world and the pastoral reality on the ground in our parishes and local communities. It needs to bring each into dialogue and must not become over attached to either side – if it does it will either become removed and irrelevant or fail to provide new insights and current fresh thinking. Thus it is an academic Institution with a missionary role. The Irish Institute for Pastoral Studies needs to fulfil its academic responsibility in such a way that it does not dominate or replace local community groups and leadership, but supports, resources and informs practise through rigorous research and contemporary theological formation. In this way, the Institute wishes to ensure that pastoral ministry is not collapsed into the academic but neither must the busyness and demands of pastoral ministry be allowed to compromise the academic standard. The Institute seeks to provide a sound theological foundation to pastoral practice by teaching, researching and reflecting on examples of best practise. Pastoral Ministry needs to be informed and animated by sound theology.
The Institute will seek to avail of opportunities to work in partnership with the wider community becoming an active partner and contributor to the work of dioceses and parishes. Pope Francis has encouraged us in Evangelii Gaudium to first listen before speaking and to learn and use the language of the people when communicating the Gospel. The Institute for Pastoral Studies needs to be able to translate theological language into a language easily understood by the practitioners.
A new vision does not come to fruition by accident. It has to be formulated and a means of bringing it about needs to be planned. The key to the renewal of the Irish Church lies in forming pastoral leaders who will, in turn, empower believers to own the Church and thus to commit themselves to participation and co-responsibility.
The Institute will support the development of lay formation and leadership and provide ongoing formation for clergy throughout the province and beyond. We aim to provide education and formation for those who are involved in ministry and Church leadership and ultimately will provide courses and programmes across the levels of the Qualifications Framework as well as unaccredited programmes. We will also provide resources and support to individual dioceses and communities.
This will be achieved by providing leadership in the development of theological literacy and Catholic understanding. We will work closely with key stakeholders to develop resources for dioceses and parishes for the training and support of lay ministry, to include the development of online and blended learning resources.
This will be achieved in the following ways:
- Offer education and training for Church leaders.
- Develop resource material which may be used in local dioceses and parishes as training resources.
- Provide facilitation and research for pastoral renewal and development.
- Provide Summer-Schools and Conferences in the area of Pastoral Studies.
- Conduct workshops and seminars on request.
- Use an experience-based, action/reflection adult model of education valuing students' personal and professional backgrounds.
- Programme and curriculum design.
The above Mission and the ensuing Objectives will be achieved through a ground-up approach, coming in behind work that is already taking place. The Institute needs to engage with and work closely with pastoral leaders and practitioners in the various dioceses, listening to their needs and experience. Central to this is identifying ways in which the Institute can be of service to the local Church, resourcing and supporting the work that is going on. In this way, we will be able to identify what the needs are and how best we can meet them – over time developing courses and programmes across the levels on the NQAI framework of qualifications.