Merging of parishes from November in Cashel amid dwindling priest numbers

The Irish Examiner reports:

Half of the priests currently serving in the archdiocese will be over the retirement age of 75 within five years, warns Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly.

The Catholic Church will soon face a “new reality” in Ireland amid dwindling priest numbers, the Archbishop of Cashel and Emly has said.

Parishes will be amalgamated, and lay people will be asked to assist priests more in their duties as an increasing number approach retirement age, Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly wrote to parishioners on Saturday.

It is standard practice that, when a Catholic priest reaches the age of 75, he requests to step aside from full-time ministry. Of the 68 priests in the archdiocese, the average age is 67, said Archbishop O’Reilly. In five years, there will be just 35 priests below the age of retirement.

Meanwhile, there is just one candidate training for the priesthood in the diocese.

As part of a plan to deal with projected priest shortages, the Church will form pastoral units which will encompass multiple parishes and require lay people to share the work of priests. The archdiocese plans to inaugurate the new pastoral units from the beginning of Advent 2022, in November.

Mass times, in particular Sunday Mass, will soon be rearranged around other parishes within pastoral units.

The archdiocese has begun training pastoral workers who will be “an important part of the pastoral life of the diocese in the future”, according to the archbishop.

The archbishop asked parishioners to “continue to pray for an increase of vocations to the priesthood and religious life in our diocese and for the Church in Ireland” as it is “clear that this staffing level will not continue”.

“As with the other dioceses in Ireland we are moving into a new way of being Church in our country,” he said. 

“This new way will in fact, open new possibilities of participation for members of our faith communities.” 

Also speaking on Saturday, Archbishop Eamon Martin said the Church “may find itself increasingly marginalised in public debate” as “the next chapter in the life of the Church in Ireland will be different to the last”.

“We must become, as many have said, a Church which serves, a Church which is more about mission than maintenance, more about movements than monuments,” said Dr Martin.

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