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Galway’s clerical numbers will be down by half in a decade

The number of priests in the Galway and Clonfert Dioceses is expected to fall by half in the next ten years.

That’s according to the Bishop of both Dioceses, Michael Duignan, who told the Connacht Tribune this week that the current structures in which the Church operates have become “unsustainable”.

Bishop Duignan said the conversation about the future organisation and function of parishes were continuous, but he remained hopeful that a new path could be forged that would best serve Catholics in Galway.

That conversation was well advanced in the Clonfert Diocese, of which he has been Bishop since 2019, but was about to commence in a more structured fashion in the Galway, Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora Diocese.

“We are having a conversation about what we are going to do in the future; how we are going to keep the faith alive; and how we are going to keep our faith community alive,” said Bishop Duignan.

How that would look in reality would take time to establish, he said, but the objective was for church leaders, priests and the laity to work in harmony to find solutions for each parish and its parishioners.

“The opportunity of this moment, I think, is that more than ever people are aware that the system we have is unsustainable.

“Our congregations are decreasing in numbers, but they’re also increasing in age which means they will ultimately decrease over time. That has knock on effects because we built up the church structure we have now after Catholic Emancipation, when everybody went to Mass, so the units we built up in our parishes were built for a time when everybody practised,” said Bishop Duignan.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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