AT this time, the Church is doing the very important and pressing work of looking at future planning to ensure that parishes have the sacramental and pastoral care that they need.
This is undoubtably a very difficult time, as many churches face questions about how much longer into the future they can expect to have a priest regularly celebrating Mass in their parish.
In other ways this is also an exciting time, as we reflect on the things that are most important to our Catholic tradition, as well as looking at ways lay leadership can be further fostered and nurtured.
There is in the country parishes a growing sense of wondering occurring. We are wondering if the city parishes really are comprehending the extent of the demands being placed on the more regional centres.
Let me give you an example in order to make the point.
Imagine a priest getting up on Sunday morning and celebrating Mass in Enoggera church, then getting in his car and driving to Caloundra to celebrate the second Mass of the day.
Then he drives to Coolum and celebrates his third. Finally he drives back to Enoggera and (perhaps, even though canon law really does not permit it) celebrates a final Mass in Stafford.
Sound a lot? Well, these are the relative distances covered by a parish priest in North Country Deanery in Brisbane archdiocese.
Did you also know that North Country Deanery, under current proposed plans of priest allocations, is expected by 2011 to minister to its whole deanery region with only 11 priests.
I only realised recently that North Country Deanery covers approximately half the geographic area of the entire archdiocese.
It is no wonder that people in the country are starting to get really upset when they hear that parishes are complaining when they are starting to be asked to think about perhaps driving five to 10 minutes to another church or to consider working in amalgamation with other neighbouring parishes.
I am wondering if it is time to bite the bullet and fairly and prayerfully re-look at the plan and draw it up more realistically and more sensibly.
The people of the country have already been undergoing rationalisation and amalgamation, but there is a fear that the same is not as far advanced in the city.
FR PAUL KELLY