Sunday Mass no longer guaranteed

Lack of priests Sunday mass

The Catholic Bishop of Limerick has said he can no longer guarantee that mass will be celebrated in all churches in the diocese every Sunday due to a lack of priests.

Bishop Brendan Leahy wrote in a letter that the number of priests is rapidly declining. As a result, lay people would have to fill the void by leading a range of church services including funeral prayers and sacrament preparations for children.

“We will need lay people to lead prayers at funerals, at gravesides, to visit schools on behalf of the parish, to be involved in pastoral councils and baptismal teams, to help with the practical administration of parishes,” the bishop said.

The bishop wrote that the number of priests was “declining rapidly” and that “the ageing profile of clergy is now very evident.

“It is clear that at this stage we can no longer guarantee the celebration of a Mass in each church in the diocese each Sunday,” he continued.

A number of pastoral units in the west of Ireland diocese are set to lose a priest this autumn. Leahy appealed to parishioners to face the challenges with realism and determination.

“The rapid changes are calling us to envisage and work towards putting in place new forms of lay leadership in our parish communities,” he said.

“We all need to work urgently to prepare for the new arrangements that are needed in the coming years. It is in working together, encouraging each other and facing challenges with peace of soul combined with realism and determination that we move forward,” Leahy added.

The declining numbers of clergy in Ireland are reflected in data showing a global reduction in seminarians. Vatican statistics show the number of young men joining the priesthood decreased globally to just under 112,000, with every region except Africa showing a downturn.


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