An Ageing Priesthood
News Item of Interest;
The Irish Examiner of 03 April 2018 carries an article titled “Special Report – Diocese by diocese: The state of the Catholic Church on the island of Ireland today”
The special report, by Noel Baker, Social Affairs Correspondent, opens by stating
“Senior figures within the Catholic Church are warning that the ageing profile of priests and the lack of new ordinations could mean a further reduction in its footprint around the country.
A survey of archdioceses and dioceses highlights the changing face of the Catholic Church in Ireland. It found that human resources are being stretched, that a small but growing number of parishes are without a resident priest, and that there is an increased role for deacons and for priests coming to serve from overseas.
There is a shrinking number of Masses, according to the survey, and, in some areas, limitations on when ceremonies such as weddings and baptisms can be conducted.”
The full article can be accessed here.
The article goes on to give a snapshot of the current position in most dioceses in Ireland with regard to priest numbers and the efforts that are being made to counter the declining number of priests in active ministry.
A spokesperson for Clogher Diocese is quoted as saying,
“Some parishes have reduced Sunday Masses to take account of the reduced numbers of priests. As a diocese, we emphasise the community and active participation dimension of our liturgies. Therefore, fewer Masses with greater participation can have a positive impact in parishes. Weekday Masses are celebrated according to local needs.
Lay people will continue to play an increasingly important role in the diocese. While we have not yet determined a policy regarding weekday liturgies celebrated in the absence of a priest, the diocesan commission has examined the question, with a view to the future. We currently have one person completing formation for the permanent diaconate and he will be ordained in June 2018.”
Of Meath Diocese it is said
“In the past five years, 18 priests died; of this number, seven were in active ministry. Seven priests were ordained in the same period, with eight foreign priests joining the diocese from abroad. These priests come from Romania, India, Pakistan, Nigeria and Uganda. Three are engaged in full-time post graduate studies in Maynooth (which is near to this diocese) while five are full-time ministering in parishes.”
The spokesperson for Elphin Diocese is quoyes as saying
“In the past two years, we have established a formation programme for volunteer catechists, who will offer opportunities for their fellow parishioners to deepen their faith through various spiritual and educational programmes.
We don’t really need more priests than we currently have in ministry, but we do need a greater balance in the age range of priests. While it is wonderful to be able to welcome priests among us from countries which were evangelised by Irish missionaries, we do also need to provide priests of our own, whose own faith and experience of Church is rooted in the West of Ireland. A faith community which did not inspire people to mission would have to question its depth of faith. We are blessed currently to have two men preparing for the priesthood for our diocese.”
The Cashel & Emly spokesperson also pointed to the role of the laity.
“With fewer priests, more focus will inevitably fall on the role of the lay people in any parish — especially as they involve themselves more in administrative activity.”
“We have more than 20 parishes which do not have a resident parish priest and where the people of the parish have to take responsibility for the day to day running of the parish. This includes finance, safeguarding, liturgy, maintenance and school board functions. Many parishes have trained people to lead liturgy in the absence of a priest.
……. The challenge facing the Diocese of Killaloe is how maintain the Christian community which exists around each of the individual 137 churches, particularly in rural areas where there is serious depopulation due to demographic factors. The principal issue facing this diocese is not so much the scarcity of priests but the age structure. The average age in Killaloe is 66 and so the quantity of priests is not so much the issue as the decreasing energy due to older age.”
The full article can be accessed here.