Parish restructuring will buy time, but not much

looks critical

No priests, no Eucharist, no Mass – the situation for parishes in Dublin’s Catholic archdiocese looks critical. Thirty-four priests in the diocese have died since February 2020. The youngest was just 52.

New proposals on restructuring parishes in the archdiocese will buy the Church some time. Not much though – between five and ten years at the most, says senior priest Fr Aquinas Duffy.

“Anybody who works in parishes can see the structures are collapsing around us. The time for talk is over. Concrete action needs to be taken” he says.

“This crisis has been coming for many years, but Covid has pushed us further over the cliff.”

The archdiocese’s strategy to offset the impact of a declining and ageing clergy includes sharing resources between parishes.

Called “Building Hope”, the new strategy involves reaching out to parishioners to identify nearby parishes with whom they can share resources in terms of finances, personnel and volunteers.

Duffy – who besides being a parish priest is also Vicar Forane (a rural dean) for up to 15 parishes, says the new move to appoint a parish priest to multiple parishes would put huge pressure on priests.

In his opinion, the future will see parishes relying on lay-led liturgies instead of funerals celebrated by priests.

Then there’s the question of the Eucharist. How will people access it, he asks?

“We have to face the deeper questions that are coming out of the synodal pathway like who is going to provide the Eucharist in the future? If we don’t consider issues like women priests and married, we are only fooling ourselves.”

Duffy notes in some parishes in South America a priest celebrates the Eucharist once every two years.

“That is wrong. If you consider the Eucharist to be central to our beliefs, what you are saying is, actually it isn’t important because we are not going to find any way of that Eucharist being provided.

“To do nothing is not an option; to do nothing is to make a decision to let it all collapse.

“I can’t emphasise enough how critical a moment we are at right now. We are at a crossroads which will determine the future of Catholicism in Ireland” he says.


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