FIVE parishes in the diocese of Cork and Ross are set to lose their parish priests in a major reshuffle as 12 priests retire this summer – and they won’t be replaced.
Speaking at a mass in Newcestown last Friday to mark the 150th anniversary of St John the Baptist Church, Bishop Fintan Gavin said these difficult changes were necessary to ensure faith can move forward.
‘The only difference now is that you won’t have your own priest resident in this parish, but you will have a team of about four or five priests who will work together across the parishes,’ said Bishop Gavin.
While admitting it may not make him a ‘popular bishop’, and that it was something he wished he didn’t have to do, he said it was necessary, given the numbers of priests left in the diocese.
‘In many ways, you may be pioneers in a new way of being churched and this summer you are being asked to take your responsibility in a new way with the “family of parishes”.’
The changes were recently outlined to representatives from various parishes and the new concept of a ‘family of parishes’ means that priests will now work together across a number of parishes.
This means that Murragh & Templemartin (Newcestown) along with Caheragh, Rossmore, Kilmichael and Aughadown will no longer have a resident parish priest after the summer.
Rev Ronan Sheehan from Templemartin will be the only priest to be ordained in the diocese of Cork and Ross this year. However, following his ordination in Newcestown this September, he will take up a post in another parish.
It is expected that Murragh & Templemartin will be part of a six-parish ‘family of parishes’ where priests will also share responsibility for the parishes of Bandon, Enniskeane, Innishannon, Kilbrittain and Kilmurry.
There are currently 80 priests in the diocese, but that figure is expected to drop to about 40 over the next five years, as more elderly priests retire.
Last year The Southern Star highlighted the predicament the church faces when it spoke to Fr Pat McCarthy who retired as parish priest of Ardfield/Rathbarry. He said the church has only two options to negate the loss of priests – either bring in priests from abroad or ordain married men.
He said it makes ‘a lot of sense’ and that the next step should then be the ordination of women.
‘You will always get people who are opposed to change,’ he said.
‘It should be done now out of principle, not done down the road out of necessity or out of fear.
‘Do it because it’s the right thing to do.’