Low attendances, priest numbers put Limerick Masses in peril

Bishop warns parts of diocese may ‘have Mass every second Sunday or one Sunday a month’

Bishop Brendan Leahy of Limerick (left) with  Archbishop of Armagh, Eamon Martin. Bishop Leahy said falling Mass attendances and a shortage of priests could soon mean some churches in Limerick ‘will have Mass every second Sunday or one Sunday a month’. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times.

Bishop Brendan Leahy of Limerick (left) with Archbishop of Armagh, Eamon Martin. Bishop Leahy said falling Mass attendances and a shortage of priests could soon mean some churches in Limerick ‘will have Mass every second Sunday or one Sunday a month’. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times.

 

Falling Mass attendances and a shortage of priests could soon mean some churches in Limerick “will have Mass every second Sunday or one Sunday a month”, Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy has said.

Bishop Leahy also warned that priests’ incomes could be affected by a decline in contributions. Christmas dues, Easter dues and also Harvest dues go towards a priest’s income while weekly collections go towards the upkeep of the local church, he said.

“But we are seeing that those dues are declining, that people don’t think that they are important.”

The income for a parish priest in Limerick is about €27,000 per annum and this fell to some €24,000 for a curate, though accommodation is provided by the local parish.

Team ministry

Asked how the shortage of priests in Limerick was being addressed, Bishop Leahy said “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”.

In an interview with the Limerick Leader he also said lay people would play a key role in keeping the Church vibrant into the future.

“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,” he said.

“Here, for instance, we have the first new lay general manager, lay diocesan secretary. Catherine Kelly replaced Fr Paul Finnerty – it was always a priest before that.

“We need to grapple with the logistics of what needs to be sorted out but I feel God is doing something – I really do believe that.”