By Sarah Mac Donald - 25 February, 2020
Members of the laity along with representatives of the Religious and of the clergy in the Diocese of Clogher are set to take part in a dialogue on how parishes and the diocese itself can meet the challenges of the years ahead.
The dialogue is being launched in the first week of Lent, and participants will gather to discuss how the diocese can continue to sustain living parishes into the future.
Meetings will be held at venues across Clogher’s seven Pastoral Areas during the first and third weeks of Lent and a team of facilitators, drawn from the laity and the clergy, will oversee these gatherings.
It is hoped that a clear sense of what the faithful wants for Clogher will be gleaned from these meetings.
The process was initiated by Bishop Larry Duffy following discussions with the Council of Priests and other diocesan groups.
Speaking about the initiative, Bishop Duffy said that in order to achieve its objective, the dialogue seeks understanding more than agreement.
He added, “Agreement will take time to achieve, but that will happen too in the Lord’s way and in the Lord’s time.”
Dr Duffy stressed that it was the beginning of a conversation which will be listened to and which will inform future planning at parish, pastoral area and diocesan levels.
He urged everyone to embrace this process.
“It is devoted to renewal, a renewal that will, please God, give us all the energy we need to face the future with courage. Praying our way through this is most important and I encourage you to keep that in your prayers both personally and with your family and wider community,” he said.
In 2018, the Diocese of Clogher announced that it was set to reduce the number of Sunday Masses celebrated in its parishes by 15 percent.
The reduction in Masses from 113 down to 96 was intended to allow a declining number of priests celebrate several Masses on a weekend across parish boundaries in each of the Clogher’s seven parish groupings.
The changes followed the publication of a pastoral letter by the then diocesan administrator, Monsignor Joseph McGuinness, entitled ‘The Future Mission of Our Parishes’.
In the letter, Mgr McGuinness highlighted that the Diocese of Clogher has just 58 priests who are active in parish ministry at present, 28 of whom are aged over 65.
Statistics also show that the diocese has just 44 priests under the age of 75, and these are ministering to communities in 85 churches and 37 parishes.
In the letter, Mgr McGuinness said the current reality was that the number of priests is continuing to diminish and that this, along with the aging profile of clergy, “makes it increasingly difficult to maintain the level of service to our people that has prevailed in the past”.