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Archdiocese carries out inventory of massgoers


Archdiocese carries out inventory of massgoers

For the past three weeks, mass attendance numbers in the 56 parishes of the Tuam Archdiocese have been recorded as the church is considering a reduction in the number of weekend ceremonies.

And an audit of those figures will be carried out by the archdiocese over the coming months in the expectation that they will provide a Diocesan blueprint for the future.

“It will give a clear indication as to the challenges facing the archdiocese,” said Fr Pat Farragher, Administrator to the Cathedral of the Assumption in Tuam.

“It is expected that the findings will prepare us for a future that will be very different to what it is now,” Fr Farragher added.

The Archdiocese of Tuam has experienced a rapid decline in the number of clergy – due to retirements, ill health and a distinct lack of vocations.

At present, there are 41 diocesan priests under the retirement age of 75 working in the 56 parishes.

There are four diocesan priests, well over 75, who continue by choice to minister – as well as seven priests from abroad and three Irish priests, who worked with missionary congregations and who now minister at a local level.

There are currently two students from the Tuam Archdiocese who are studying for the priesthood – but the local clergy concede that the trend is downward.

Retirements and ill health, in addition to so few replacements, mean that pastoral services will have to be reimagined. In six years’ time, an additional seven diocesan clergy will be over 75.

According to Archbishop Francis Duffy, every parish will be impacted by the current trend and that was the reason why he asked that the numbers attending the weekend Masses in recent weeks be obtained.

In a recent pastoral letter, the Archbishop has asked parish pastoral councils to address the potential crisis facing the church and plan for the immediate future.

At the moment, priests may celebrate up to three Sunday Masses, including the Vigil Mass.

It is the Archbishop’s view that it will be necessary to reduce the current number of Masses so that priests may be able to attend to the pastoral needs of two or more parishes.

“As is already clear in some parishes in this diocese, it is not necessary to have a priest resident in the parish to have a flourishing community of faith,” he said.

“Certainly a priest or a small team of priests will be available for pastoral needs. It is not necessary to have a Sunday Mass in each church; already several churches have weekday Masses and no Sunday Mass.

“In some parishes, when the priest is unavoidably absent during the week, parishioners hold a prayer service in their church; this may need to be extended to weekends where necessary.”

Some parishes are already addressing issues such as engagement with youth and with older parishioners, pilgrimages, sacramental preparation, adult faith formation, safeguarding and other initiatives that benefit faith and community.

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