Deacon David Cross has been appointed to the role of coordinator of adult formation after the recent departure of Deacon Vince Purcell.
The job will involve coordinating the delivery of formation opportunities to equip the lay faithful to accept greater responsibility for evangelisation, pastoral care and administration in their parishes.
David, who is married to Carol with five grown-up children, has a wealth of experience of working within the Church and is currently with CAFOD in the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle.
His new tasks will include helping the diocese adapt to its future in the light of a renewed emphasis on adult formation within the wider Church.
“It’s about trying to equip laypeople to take on a more proactive role in helping keep our parishes functioning and providing sacramental services in the longer term,” said Deacon David.
“That’s an important challenge both for laypeople and for our priests and deacons and there’s a lot to think about in terms of how we can equip parishioners in what is a challenging time for our Catholic community with the skills they will need.
“For many of us, the starting point may be to ask ourselves the question of why we are here as a parish? Is it just about existing inside the church walls or are we here for the wider community?
“If everyone on our parish registers came to our Masses we couldn’t fit them all in. Where are all these people? There’s a job to be done in not necessarily going out to convert new Catholics but in bringing back the ones we have already. How can we reach and open our church doors once again to those people who no longer feel part of the parish community?
“Our vocation is to take the love of God to those in our community. Through our lives, nourished by the Eucharist, the Word of God, the Holy Spirit and each other, to become images of the God who loves us unconditionally and constantly invites us into a deeper relationship. This is the Good News for every person.”
David said we will face many challenges as together we get to grip with the task of shaping the Church of the future, but they are challenges that we should look forward to with great hope.
“The diocese is coming to the point where when a priest retires, the Bishop isn’t able to replace them because we haven’t got any more,” he said.
“But he’s clear that he doesn’t want to close parishes, he wants to help parishioners find ways of keeping the parish going when there isn’t a permanent priest.
“My role is to prepare both clergy and laypeople in our parishes before that starts to kick in and happen on a big scale.”
“Hopefully, over time, I’ll be going and meeting with parishes, listening to peoples’ ideas, their hopes and fears for the future and working closely with them to find solutions to the challenges we will be facing and exploring what it’s going to be like to be Church.
“I will also be organising training and seminars and encouraging parishioners to participate in them as much as possible.”
David will begin his new role on October 1.