By Sean Ryan - 05 November, 2016
A shortage of priests, coupled with falling attendances at Mass, may give rise to a situation whereby, according to the bishop of Limerick, “some churches will have Mass every second Sunday or one Sunday a month.”
In an in-depth interview with the Limerick Leader this week, the bishop of Limerick, Dr Brendan Leahy, said “We are not trying to pretend it isn’t there. One of the things we are doing here is we have moved more clearly towards a team ministry model, that is three or four priests looking after several parishes together. There will be teething problems because it’s new and we have to think it through but we have to move in that direction.”
Bishop Leahy acknowledged that the shortage of priests in the future may mean that a parish priest may find himself in charge of three or more parishes. He said, “That is going to be a challenge. How can he be the parish priest of two or three parishes? He can’t keep going with all the work and administration, so we are going to have to reflect on it.”
Bishop Leahy also said that the role of lay people will be of the utmost importance going forward in the Church in Limerick.
“We are going to see teams of priests but not just teams of priests. I think we will see lay people working within the teams so that is going to be a development. Here, for instance, we have the first new lay general manager, lay diocesan secretary, Catherine Kelly, who replaced Fr Paul Finnerty – it was always a priest before that.”
Speaking about the future, Bishop Leahy said that while the Diocese of Limerick may have enough priests to say Mass, “what we may … have is that not every church will have Mass every Sunday. It might be that some churches will have Mass every second Sunday or one Sunday a month.”