By Ann Marie Foley - 22 July, 2020
Bishop Ray Browne has thanked Fr Amos Surungai Ruto and Fr Vitalis Barasa from Kitale diocese in Kenya for their work in the Diocese of Kerry during the last year.
“What courage they showed in taking on such an enormous change of world and culture. Their only prior knowledge of Ireland was through their bishop being a Cork man, and through knowing several Irish missionary sisters and priests,” stated the Bishop as he announced the Diocesan Appointments for 2020.
While the priests are staying in Kerry for three years, for the next 12 months both Fr Barasa and Fr Ruto are to minister in Tralee in St John’s and Our Lady, and St. Brendan’s respectively. The bishop stated that people of the diocese have commented on how wonderful it is to have two priests who are so young, joyful, and content.
“They give great witness to faith in Jesus Christ and to the vocation of being a priest. Their joy in Christ challenges us all. I recently read a statement regarding how the Church in Africa and Ireland/Europe differs: ‘In Africa the priest helps the people, in the west the people help the priest’. May their presence among us help the development of lay ministry. We thank them for their inspiring presence and for coming to the diocese of Kerry,” said the bishop.
He also raised the issue of the future of the diocese as each year over the next five, priests will retire. During the last year alone Fr Liam Comer and Fr Michael Fleming passed away and Fr Tom Looney is retiring.
Bishop Browne stated that COVID-19 restrictions, which required people over seventy and those with serious medical conditions to cocoon, were a reminder of the age profile of priests in the diocese. He was pleased that priests can minister up to the age of seventy-five and there are two seminarians preparing to serve as priests in the diocese, but the diocese has started a listening process as part of wider pastoral planning for the future.
“The listening happens at parish, pastoral area and diocese level. Questions include: What is our mission as the people of God? What are the challenges we face in the years ahead? What are our priorities? What next steps do we take to further develop lay ministry?” he stated.
It is challenging to think of an an era of fewer and fewer priests, and how to continue to have the fullness of parish life he stated.
“We have within our parish communities all the gifts, talents and faith we need for the whole diocese to continue to thrive and we can make this happen,” he added.
In the future there will be more lay ministry and he described that as “people of faith living out their baptism calling to share their faith with others, by both word and example”.
He said that clergy will work side by side with the laity and added: “We are one and all co-responsible for the life of the whole People of God, the Church.”
The Diocese of Kerry is among others who have the services of ‘missionary’ priests coming to Ireland to minister. In his announcement of Clerical Appointments in the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin Bishop Denis Nulty welcomed two new priests. Fr Robert Petrisor is to arrive from Bucharest in Romania and Fr Yanbo Chen SVD was ordained from Maynooth last year. In recent years Kildare and Leighlin has had the services of priests from Kearla in India and from elsewhere.