Parishes in the Derry diocese have attempted to reach out to marginalised parishioners, including gays and victims of abuse.
As part of a new consultation to identify the priorities of parishioners, several parishes in Derry, Donegal and Tyrone have issued a questionaire which appears to recognise that some people may feel they are not accepted or valued in the faith community.
Notably, some questions in the document attempt to reach out to those whose relationships are not recognised by the church.
The inclusion of the following questions, which require ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answers, may be seen by many in the diocese as a significant efforts on the part of the church to ensure it welcomes everyone in the Catholic faith community: ‘I’m in a relationship which is not recognised by the Church’; ‘There are some parts of the teachings of the church with which I am uncomfortable’; ‘As a woman I feel undervalued by the church’; ‘I have experienced hurt in the church at some time and this has not been healed’.
Glendermott and Strathfoyle was among the parishes where the document was issued and local curate, Fr Chris Ferguson, believes it is a sign of how complex society has become.
“Society is much more complex than it was 20 or 30 years ago and if we want to hold a consultation with people then we must all be open and honest about it.”
He added: “We’re trying to give people a voice and plan for the future. The Church recognises that people have different needs but everyone is welcome in the Church and we need people to feel they belong and can participate.”
The four page questionnaire - which is to be filled in anonymously - includes a range of questions on aspects of church life under the following headings ‘Relationships and Involvement in the Parish’; ‘Sacraments in the Parish’; ‘Parish Resources’and ‘The Parish in the Future’. Among the parishes where the document was issued at weekend Masses were Glendermott and Strathfoyle, Holy Family, Steelstown, Malin, Carndonagh, Bellaghy and Omagh.