By Sarah Mac Donald - 05 July, 2016
A total of five parishes in the Diocese of Kerry are now without a resident priest while just one priest in the diocese is under forty, Bishop Ray Browne has highlighted.
Announcing the list of clerical changes for 2016, the Bishop of Kerry said the appointments involve leaving two more parishes without a resident priest, bringing the total number of parishes without a resident priest to five.
“I realise that this in particular will cause upset and be unsettling for both priests and people,” the Bishop stated.
He said the challenge is to ensure that these parishes and all our parishes have the fullness of Church life in a time of “less and less priests”.
“If in a Pastoral Area there are four parishes and just three priests, then no priest is full-time in his own parish. A quarter of each priest’s time is dedicated to the fourth parish that is without a resident priest,” Bishop Browne said in a statement posted on the Diocese of Kerry website.
Setting out the current situation in the diocese, Dr Browne highlighted that in the past nine months, five priests in Kerry diocese have died. All were retired and had given “long years of great faith-filled service”.
He also noted that last year three priests of the diocese retired having passed the age of 75, while this year one priest is retiring due to age.
Another three priests are coping with long-term serious ill-health at the moment.
On the up side, over the coming year Kerry diocese will see Sean Jones ordained a priest – exactly ten years since the last priestly ordination.
Four other students preparing for priesthood and the bishop appealed for prayers for these students and for vocations to the priesthood in the diocese, where just one priest is under forty years of age.
Elsewhere, in his message, Bishop Browne also paid tribute to the Mercy Sisters following the closure of the Balloonagh Convent, Tralee after more than 160 years.
“We offer our support, sympathy and gratitude to all the Mercy communities throughout the diocese. To this day, in ‘ordinary retirement’ so many Sisters continue to be involved in many practical ways in their local parish.”
“It is a coincidence that we celebrate a ‘Year of Mercy’. The Sisters for generations as communities and as individuals moved with mercy among us, tending quietly to so many needs of individuals, of families and of local communities.”
“May every parish community take pride in continuing that great tradition of ‘Mercy where there is need’. Thank God for the great service of all religious communities.”
He also stressed that the fullness of parish life in each parish is only possible because of the faith, generosity and commitment to their parish of so many individuals and families.
“Thank God for the voluntary service people of all ages give to their own parishes. It is their responsibility by virtue of their call in Baptism and Confirmation,” he said.
He added that it is clear that more and more responsibility for life in the parish is in the hands of the laity.
“It is the same spirit of service to the parish that we see in all areas of local community life: the GAA, amateur drama, Kerry Parents and Friends, bridge clubs, etc. Thank God so many people find it life–giving to give freely of their time to activities in their community,” Bishop Browne said as he invited all to be confident in the vibrancy of our parishes and to recommit to service of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.