REGULAR mass-goers in Killarney are this week facing into their first weekend of a new Sunday mass schedule for the town.
With a declining number of priests to serve the parish, a decision was made in November to cut the number of masses and make a change to the timetable, which are due to take effect this Sunday morning, January 26.
Currently there were eight Sunday and vigil masses divided between St Mary's Cathedral, the Church of the Resurrection and the Church of the Holy Spirit Muckross.
However the changes introduced this weekend will see the loss of the 9.30am Sunday morning mass in the Church of the Resurrection, leaving it with just a single Sunday service. There will also be a change to the scheduled Sunday morning mass at Muckross Church, which moves by half an hour from 10am to 9.30am.
In April 2013 visiting priest Fr Moses Muraya returned to his native Kenya, and at that stage Sunday masses were cut in St Columbanus's Home, St Finan's and Killarney Nursing Home.
But further cuts were deemed necessary, with the number of priests falling in recent years from six to just three - Fr Kieran O'Brien, Fr Niall Howard and Fr Pat Horgan, who generously continues in his parish ministry long after the retirement age of 75.
A consultation process was begun with parishioners in November to allow the parish draw up a schedule of masses that two priests can cover to "allow space" for annual leave, pilgrimages and unplanned absences. This process was informed by the ongoing weekend masses celebrated at the Franciscan Friary in the town, a 7pm vigil mass on Saturday, and three services at 8.30am, 10am and 11.30am on Sunday.