Masses to be cut due to shortage of priests falls
A Church diocese has lost one-third of its active priests in 20 years and will have to cut the number of Masses, a leading cleric revealed yesterday.
Monsignor Joseph McGuinness, administrator of the Diocese of Clogher, said that 37 parishes and 85 churches in the diocese were now served by just 58 priests in active ministry. In the last year alone, the diocese had lost the service of seven priests through death, serious illness and other reasons. Just one new priest had been ordained.
Of the 58 active priests, nearly half were over the age of 65. Also, 14 of these 28 had retired as parish priests, with more due to retire in the coming years. Only seven priests were under the age of 50.
Mgr McGuinness said: "There are obvious implications in this for our ability to sustain the levels of pastoral and sacramental provision which have existed until now, as well as the administrative structures within our diocese."
The monsignor added that certain steps "will need to be taken immediately in all parishes so that they can continue to realise their mission".
He said necessary changes were the beginning of a process to deal with the reality of the present and future challenges.
Outlining the changes in a pastoral letter, 'The Future Mission of our Parishes', he announced the retirement of four parish priests and the appointment of several existing and new priests to take charge of more than one parish.
Parishes would no longer be run on an individual basis but would depend on neighbouring parishes working together.
"The number of Masses in all parishes will need to be reduced to take account of the new reality," he said.
There would also be "much more significant lay involvement" with parishioners leading some liturgies.
Mgr McGuinness called for more vocations to the priesthood and encouraged parents to support a son who showed interest in becoming a priest.