By Sarah Mac Donald - 12 April, 2017
Bishop Denis Nulty of Kildare & Leighlin has expressed solidarity with the Irish Church’s ageing priests and their increased workload as their numbers decline.
In his homily at the annual Chrism Mass at the Cathedral of the Assumption in Carlow, Bishop Nulty said he was “acutely aware of the pressure points and strains that exist in a very real way in some parishes where the age profile of the priesthood continues to rise, and where sometimes even to organise relief cover is next to impossible”.
He said obviously “a radical reappraisal of what a parish might look like into the future, how it should be organised, coordinated, funded and ministered” is needed.
Dr Nulty said he was aware discussions have happened on these matters in the past, on the clustering of parishes and the reorganisation of Masses, but “without today’s urgency”.
Before the end of the month, the Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin is to address this issue in a pastoral letter to the people and priests of the diocese.
He said he envisaged a process of structured meetings during May at local deanery level involving laity, permanent deacons and priests towards a larger gathering of all in June.
On Monday evening in Carlow, the Bishop noted that in 496 days “we will gather, hopefully in the company of Pope Francis, for the World Meeting of Families in Dublin”.
He also recalled that in 2012, at the time of the International Eucharistic Congress, some wondered was it a good time to host the Congress in the aftermath of the scandals that rocked our Church.
“I hear people ask today is it a good time to be the host country for the World Meeting of Families when so many of our reference points around faith and family are shifting.”
The Bishop responded, “There is no better time than now to re-energise, to renew, to revisit our understanding of family. It is the work of today, the mandate of the present, the mission of now.”
Referring to Pope Francis’ letter of convocation for the World Meeting of Families, Dr Nulty said he loved the vision given by the Pope in which he states, “I dream of an outbound Church, not a self-referential one, a Church that does not pass far from man’s wounds, a merciful Church that proclaims the heart of the revelation of God as Love, which is Mercy.”
Bishop Nulty said the Pope’s wish is that the Church would be missionary, that the Church would move beyond its comfort zones, and that the Church would be a place of dialogue and encounter.
Stressing that being a ‘missionary’ is a mandate for priests and people now, he paid tribute to his uncle, Columban priest Fr Michael Balfe and to the Kiltegan Fathers in Kildare & Leighlin.
Referring to the publication last week of the first figures from Census2016, he said that those who are immersed in parish life must agree that much remains to be done in reaching out to the 78 per cent of the population who classify themselves as Roman Catholic. “How richer our Church and faith will be for it in the future,” he commented.
The Chrism Mass, he said, is a gathering of the family of the diocese and he thanked the huge numbers of priests and people who travelled from the 56 parishes in Kildare & Leighlin to be present, as well as Bishop Jim Moriarty.
He said he looked forward “with great joy” to the priestly ordination of Deacon David Vard for the diocese of Kildare and Leighlin next June in Newbridge.