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Shortage of priests could lead to delays for burials

Bereaved families across Galway may face a much longer delay before they can bury their deceased loved ones in future – because of a dearth of priests across all parishes.

That could mean a delay of even up to a week or more before funeral arrangements can be confirmed.

That grim reality has been outlined by members of the clergy who say that declining numbers of priests means that fewer will be available for more immediate funeral ceremonies.

It comes on foot of an honest admission from Bishop of Galway and Clonfert Michael Duignan predicting that, over the next decade, there will be just 20 priests to serve over 40 parishes in the Galway Diocese alone.

And according to Fr Declan McInerney, Parish Priest of Clonfert, the reduction in priests across the county will impact on all services that have been provided by the clergy.

Speaking to the Connacht Tribune, Fr McInerney said that it could easily take a week, if not two, for a priest to become available for a funeral ceremony in his own diocese.

This would become similar funeral patterns in England where the deceased are not laid to rest for several weeks after death.

“The demands on the reduced number of clergy in the diocese are huge and it may impact on certain ceremonies taking place,” said Fr McInerney.

“The way it is, funeral arrangements may have to be put out for a number of days and even a week or two.

“I know that this can be very traumatic for families but in the years ahead, we will not have the priests on call to perform ceremonies in the same way that they are happening at the moment,” added Fr McInerney.

The Bishop of Galway Dr Michael Duignan said that every diocese was facing the same situation and admitted that there was going to be a crisis when it came to the availability of priests.

He said that there while there was a reducing number of priests available, the demanded for their services had not diminished.

Statistics have revealed that the number of priests serving the dioceses affecting County Galway have fallen by more than half over the past decade.

And Bishop Duignan regretted that over the next ten years that there will be just 20 priests to serve more than 40 parishes in the Galway Diocese alone.

It has resulted in the grouping or clustering of parishes that are being served by a dwindling number of priests with a corresponding reduction of Masses being celebrated.

And even the days of individual primary schools having a priest available for First Holy Communions are fast coming to an end.

In the future, it will be a case of several schools in the one parish coming together at one local church to facilitate this ceremony to take place.

Photo: Fr Declan McInerney, PP Eyrecourt, Clonfert, and Meelick with Bishop Michael Duignan Bishop of Clonfert, Galway and Kilmacduagh.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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