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Saturday 23 March 2019

Parish funds used to pay priests as diocese runs short of money

Challenge: Priests are having to cope with falling numbers in church, leading to a lack of funds to pay them their salaries. Stock picture
Challenge: Priests are having to cope with falling numbers in church, leading to a lack of funds to pay them their salaries. Stock picture

Conor Kane

The diocese of Waterford and Lismore has said it had no money to pay its priests' wages at Christmas because of a major downturn in funds collected from parishioners.

Administrators already had to borrow from diocesan funds to pay the 60-odd priests last September and had to raise money from parish reserves in December for the last quarterly salary payment.

Now they are waiting for collection returns to see if there will be enough for the next due payment in March or if diocesan funds will have to be used again.

There are three envelope collections each year which are supposed to fund the priests' salaries, held at Christmas, Easter and in autumn, but the amounts being raised by this method have dwindled in recent years.

"There was no money at Christmas and we had to get €5,000 from each parish out of parish funds," Waterford and Lismore spokesman Fr Liam Power said yesterday afternoon. "Long term, it's not sustainable. It's seriously depleted, that fund."

The parish funding used in December was just to pay the priests' latest quarterly salary instalment. Priests in Waterford and Lismore receive a basic salary of €21,000 per year and this can be added to by up to €5,000 because of allowances for certain ceremonies.

Fr Power was on WLR FM's 'Déise Today' programme yesterday morning to discuss the issue of using contactless card payments to collect money from parishioners.

The customary "basket collection" is used for church maintenance and upkeep and has always been kept separate to the "envelope collection" held three times yearly to pay priests.

However, he said the envelope money hasn't been enough in recent times to make up the priests' salaries. It's possible each parish will be set a minimum amount of money to raise, to ensure the payments can be maintained.

"Each parish should be contributing enough to the common fund to support its own priests," said Fr Power. "If not, maybe they would have to contribute from the basket collection."

He said that "over a number of years, it [the envelope collection] has seriously depleted".

There are a number of reasons why fundraising from traditional sources is down, he said. Fr Power cited a decrease in the amount of people attending Mass and an increase in people who have turned away from the Church.

He also said younger people who do attend Mass from time to time for special occasions or funerals are not in the habit of making contributions.

Irish Independent

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