Saturday 24 February 2018

Bishop's plan to move priest sparks furious parish reaction

Brian McDonald

FURIOUS parishioners have launched a campaign to hold on to their parish priest and defy a bishop's decision to transfer him.

Petitions have been organised in the villages of Collinstown and Fore in Co Westmeath, opposing the decision to move Fr Michael Walsh in Co Offaly.

Parishioners have called on the Bishop of Meath, Dr Michael Smith, to reverse his decision.

Some have even threatened to withhold church contributions if Bishop Smith does not cancel the move.

A group of parishioners met yesterday morning to set up a committee and they want a meeting with Bishop Smith in a bid to get Fr Walsh's transfer stopped.

A public meeting is now expected to be held in the parish this weekend.

Fr Walsh has ministered in Collinstown for the last 15 years and is hugely popular across the parish.

But on Wednesday he was named as the new parish priest of Kilcormac.

Tullamore-based curate Fr Patrick Donnelly was named his successor in Collinstown and Fore.

The diocesan changes were due to take effect on September 29, but the people of the sprawling midlands parish say they are determined to get Bishop Smith to change his mind.

Dozens of them took to social media to protest against the proposed transfer.

"This is so sad for the parish," one woman said on the Westmeath Examiner's Facebook page. "Everyone in Collinstown, Fore, Castlepollard and Whitehall need to get together and get everyone to sign a petition to keep Fr Walsh.

"He is needed in the community and is so well respected and trusted."

Petitions were opened at St Mary's NS, Collinstown and St Feichin's NS, Fore yesterday morning and parents were queueing to sign their names.

Petitions will also be available in local businesses until the middle of next week.

DEVASTATED

"We have to move quickly, as the announcement has left us with very little time," said Chrissie Molloy, one of the group of Parishioners who met yesterday.

Ms Molloy said that parishioners of all ages were "devastated" by the proposed transfer of Fr Walsh.

"It makes no sense to send Fr Walsh down to a huge parish with seven schools, and bring a much younger priest to a parish with just two schools," she added.

Fore resident Eileen Farrelly warned: "If they move Fr Walsh they (the diocese) won't get another penny from me."

Irish Independent

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