The demand to the whole Church to go out from the pew and the sacristy and become evangelising missionaries has become the hallmark of Pope Francis’s pontificate. The new pope has been calling all Christians to anew level of maturity and responsibility in regard to their faith. At his first Mass of Chrism as Pontiff, he told priests to ‘be shepherds with the smell of sheep, so that people can sense that the priest is not just concerned with his own congregation, but is also a fisher of men’. Being a missionary in contemporary culture places new demands upon all of us.
This extensive volume of thirty-six essays, written by laity, priests and religious, takes a considered look at the new demands being placed in particular on priests. It maps aspects of the contemporary context for mission, and considers a number of the spiritual and theological foundations priests can turn to in order to discern the path of authentic renewal. It also explores dimensions of human formation that are essential to effective mission, ministry and leadership, and it considers the celebration of each of the sacraments in a contemporary cultural context.
The conversation around the changing context within which priests find themselves today is not, as Archbishop Eamon Martin points out in his foreword, an easy one, but one that must be had, and which needs to be open and creative: ‘God continues to call all priests to new life in Christ.That new life is nourished through prayer, meditation and study of the scriptures … It flourishes when we are prepared to take time to evaluate, review and renew our ministry.’
All of these issues, and more, are addressed in Priesthood Today, which, it is hoped, will help priests to deepen their own faith, hope and love, and will be a valuable contribution to the renewal of the Irish Church and to priestly ministry today.
Father Eamonn Conway is a priest of the Archdiocese of Tuam, Professor of Catholic Theology at Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick, and assists as a priest at Lough Derg in the Summer months.