Number Of Priests Falling Short Of Critical Mass

Mass in a Donegal parish will be cancelled this week, as there are no priests to say it.

The parish priest for Kilcar in Donegal, Fr John Gallagher, is in hospital and priests in the Raphoe Diocese are already in short supply.

A lack of priests - and a lack of new ordinations - has become an endemic problem in Ireland, and it is one that is expected to get worse as a nationwide shift towards secularisation takes hold.

A spokesman for the Bishop of Raphoe, Dr Philip Boyce, said there was a “crisis” in the falling numbers of priests throughout the country, which may lead to the amalgamation of churches leading to super parishes as priest numbers dwindle.

"We need to prepare our parishioners and explain to them what will happen in the future, because there are so few new priests being appointed," he said.

Fr Colm O'Gallchoir, the parish priest of neighbouring Killybegs, said: "Unfortunately, this type of thing is going to happen more and more. His colleagues are trying to rearrange things so that the people of Kilcar will be able to attend Mass in their local church on a Saturday and Sunday evening."

The number of ordinations for each of the last three years nationally was only eight, reflecting the low number of uptakes of the vocation in the 1990s.

According to the Catholic News Service, Ireland is headed towards a major priest shortage.

The 2008 figures showed that the country lost 160 priests last year - mostly because of death in old age - and had only nine new ordinations. Currently there are about 4,750 priests in Ireland but, if current trends continue, by 2028 Ireland will have fewer than 1,500 priests.

Father Eamonn Bourke, Dublin Diocesan Vocations Director, speaking about the implications, said: "It will mean parish amalgamations, it will mean some parishes not having daily Masses and it will probably mean some parishes not having a Mass every Sunday.

"Couples will not be able to get married on their own - it's more likely that they will make their wedding vows with at least another couple sharing the ceremony. The same will apply to funeral Masses."


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