CONGREGATIONS in different West Cork parishes are this weekend voting on what masses to retain, and which ones to lose.
The radical move is being made in response to the scarcity of priests in the Family of Parishes which covers Bantry, Muintir Bháire, Caheragh, Schull and Goleen.
Schull PP Fr Myles McSweeney explained how this weekend Durrus parishioners will vote on whether to retain either the 6pm Saturday night mass, or the 10am Sunday mass. It’s one or the other. Changes are also on the way in Coomhola and Kilcrohane, where there’s currently a 10am and 11am Sunday mass respectively.
These masses will be replaced with one 10.30am mass, but people will have to vote where it takes place.
‘The vote will be if it will alternate between places every second weekend or every second month,’ said Fr McSweeney.
Ballydehob’s Sunday mass has been 9.30am, but that is to be changed to 9am to allow the priest on duty to travel to Kealkil/Coomhola.
Fr McSweeney said the well-flagged changes will come into play on March 1st. ‘There are currently 14 weekend masses in 11 churches in the Bantry Family of Parishes that are covered by five priests. That will be down to 12 masses from March,’ he said.
Last July Bishop Fintan Gavin announced that five parishes in the diocese of Cork and Ross were to lose their parish priests in a major reshuffle as 12 priests retired and couldn’t be replaced.
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. 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.