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Without priests from abroad, Mass schedule will “change drastically”

By Susan Gately - 09 September, 2017

Fr Alex Kochatt, Bishop Denis Nulty and Bishop Sebastian Thekethecheril at Church of the Irish Martyrs, Ballykane, Naas.

If we don’t bring priests from abroad, the schedule of Masses in the Kildare and Leighlin diocese will “change drastically” Bishop Denis Nulty has warned. But, he added, there is a “a freshness, an enthusiasm about the new reality”.

Bishop Nulty was speaking at a Mass concelebrated with a visiting bishop from India, Bishop Sebastian Thekethecheril from the Diocese of Vijayapuram, Kerala, South India. A priest from Bishop Sebastian’s diocese, Fr Alex Kochatt, is currently serving as a “Fidei Donum” priest in the parish of Naas. At the Mass last Sunday, Bishop Nulty paid tribute to priests from abroad working in the diocese.

“There are 117 churches in the diocese and it is very much my intention never to close a church that our ancestors built,” Bishop Nulty told the congregation at Ballykane church. In the past, Irish missionaries went in abundance on foreign missions, he said, but today and into the future, “we see priests and religious from abroad coming here to Ireland”.

Earlier in the week he had collected one such priest, Fr Eugen Dragos Tamas, from the airport. Fr Eugene comes from the Diocese of Iasi in Romania. Another Romanian priest will arrive in November. These priests came as “Fidei Donum” (Gifts of Faith) priests to serve for three-year periods in the diocese, explained Bishop Nulty.

“Just like Fr Alex with you here in Naas, Fr George Augustine in Kilcock, Fr Michael and Tadeus in Newbridge and Fr Gaspar in Kildare, there will be many more Fidei Donum priests serving in our diocese in the future. These are priests who, by accepting the Lord’s call, leave their own homeland to serve the Gospel in different lands and cultures. You are most welcome.”

Today and into the future, we see priests and religious from abroad coming here to Ireland, Bishop Nulty continued. “There is a richness in this exchange, a freshness, an enthusiasm about the new reality. The new reality means much greater participation by you, the laity, in all parishes.”

The Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin added that the schedule and availability of Masses may have to be looked at ‘down the road’. “If we don’t bring priests from abroad, that schedule will change drastically”.

According to the 2016 census, there are 3.7 million Catholics in Ireland. In Romania Catholics make up just 4.3 per cent of the population – around 900,000 people. “The Diocese of Iasi had 13 ordinations this summer. Kildare and Leighlin had one, a wonderful one, David Vard working in Portlaoise,” said Bishop Nulty. “We must call vocations. We must pray for vocations.”

At the end of the Mass, the Indian and Irish bishops engaged in an exchange of humorous banter regarding Fr Alex Kochatt. Bishop Sebastian from Kerala told the congregation that he was happy to know that Fr Alex’s presence was appreciated in Kildare, but his stay was longer than he had expected or wished, “because we want him back in our diocese, but he is prolonging his studies. And I wish that he would come back as early as possible.” In response, a laughing Bishop Nulty addressed Fr Alex: “Go slow! Take your time with your doctorate. There is no rush!”

Bishop Sebastian also expressed his thanks to Bishop Nulty, saying it was a “privilege” to concelebrate Mass. “Don’t worry about vocations, don’t worry about the Church of God because God’s help will win through,” he concluded.

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