Brian Eyre, married priest, writes:

In pastoral areas in our dioceses we have good-living pastoral agents, husbands and wives, rearing a family while also holding down a secular job and yet these couples find time to do pastoral work in their area. 

Bishop Ray of Kerry speaks of the challenges ahead and states a fact that in the future there will be fewer clergy: “15 parishes without a resident priest and many priests are set to retire when they reach 75 in the next 3 years”.

If the invitation was sent out to these married people who are active pastoral agents in their pastoral area some of them would answer the call to be priests. 

Their preparation for the priesthood could take place on weekends over a period of 2/3 years . They would bring to this preparation a richness gathered from their years of rearing a family and having a secular job, something that is missing from the traditional training given to seminarians who live in a seminary.

Today less and less people are going to the parish church on Sundays. Pastoral areas animated by married priests who are living in these pastoral areas could bring the church to the people. For example, in a housing estate divided up into sections, each section could  be under the care of a married priest. This married priest, living among the people, in a house just the same kind of house as everybody else and experiencing the same social human problems as everybody else in the area, could be a tremendous influence in getting people to work together for a better world, a world where neighbours think about the well-being of their next door neighbour. The married priest could have activities going on in his area for children, teenagers, young adults, married couples.

“We need to review our parish and pastoral area structures so that they can serve more effectively,”  Bishop Ray of Kerry. 

The married priest living among the people would have a secular job and so be financially independent. As priesthood is all about service this service can be done by a female and male priesthood.

“The celebration of Mass is central to who we are as church,” Bishop Hayes of Kilmore. Married priests, male and female could ensure that Mass will continue to be a reality on a regular basis.

When we speak of “The last priests in Ireland” we are throwing in the towel. We are saying that Our Lord’s command, “Do this in memory of me”, was not or is not for all times. We have no right to deprive future generations of the Eucharist, we must look for a solution.

Brian Eyre, married priest, with 2 children and 3 grandsons.

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