‘We even feel the Lord has abandoned us’: Catholic Archbishop of Dublin addresses decline

‘Our country has changed, our lives have changed,’ Dermot Farrell told event in Donnybrook

The decline in priests and practice among Catholics in Dublin “confronts us with something new, but something we do not clearly understand. We feel perplexed, even that the Lord has abandoned us. We feel that we have lost our way. These are important parts of our journey,” Archbishop of Dublin Dermot Farrell has said.

The “memory of huge numbers, and of a secure, strong Church”, can be “a very painful learning for us,” he said.

He was speaking at the Church of the Sacred Heart, Donnybrook, on Sunday evening at a ceremony where 45 lay people received certificates following completion of a year-long course in Catechesis (teaching Christianity). “Generously, you have given of your time – to engage with your faith,” he said.

He continued that “even 20 years ago, hardly anyone here could have imagined an evening like this”.


“Our country has changed, our lives have changed, and the expression of our faith – which is an expression of our lives – has changed,” he said.

The Church “happens in our lives. As we change, our Church changes. We are called to recognise how the Church is changing, and discern where the Good Shepherd is leading us,” he said. “Our lives are a journey, and our faith is a journey too. The Church is our journey in faith together,” he said.

“One of the contours of this new place we are brought [to] is the diminishing number of priests available to serve in the parishes and other ministries in the Archdiocese, and a reducing number of people who celebrate the sacraments regularly, and the increased resources required to maintain the existing parish infrastructure,” he said.

This meant “it is no longer possible for me to appoint a resident priest to every parish.” It would mean greater co-operation between parishes in providing sacraments and pastoral care, and required “a much greater involvement of the lay faithful in the partnerships of parishes to enable them to fulfil their mission and ministry.”

It would always be “a little flock that takes the way of Jesus to heart; it will always be a little flock that will have the courage to follow him, and the generosity to give as he gives,” he said.

The Church “needs people – from new generations – to lead new generations on the way of Christ, to guide and empower their peers to receive the gift of God”.

It was “not about who will say our Masses, or who will ‘teach the faith’,” he said. “Let us pray for people – young women and men, who would ‘hear his voice,’ entrust themselves to it, and witness to it, and show us all how God is near,” he said.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times