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Reduction in masses on foot of clergy decline

The continuing decline in number of clergy in the Archdiocese of Tuam has forced the church into a significant reduction in the number of masses.

Archbishop of Tuam, Dr Francis Duffy, confirmed the move in his Advent pastoral letter, saying that it was necessary to reduce the number of masses so that priests would be able to attend to the pastoral needs of two or more parishes.

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

There are four diocesan priests, well over 75, who continue by choice, to minister ‘with wisdom and great affection’ for their parishioners.

But retirements and ill health, in addition to so few replacements, mean that the pastoral services had to be “reimagined”. He noted that in six years’ time an additional a further seven of the diocesan clergy will be over 75.

According to Archbishop Duffy, that is among the number of reasons why masses will have to be reduced in the short term. He said that some priests were celebrating up to three Sunday masses and that this was not sustainable.

“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. 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.”

The Archbishop said that the Diocese was fortunate to have seven priests from abroad and three Irish priests, who had previously worked with missionary congregations.

“They are now enriching our experience of church and faith at local level,” he said.

Archbishop Duffy confirmed that there are currently two students studying for the priesthood – but he stated that the trend was ‘downward’.

He acknowledged that every parish will be impacted by the current trend – and he asked each Parish Pastoral Council, along with neighbouring Parish Pastoral Councils in the Deanery, to address this issue and plan for the immediate future.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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