Updated: 05/04/18 : 05:53:37
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Local priest numbers same as 100 years ago

THE NUMBER of Catholic priests in a local diocese is much the same as 100 years ago.

The surprise stat emerged in a nationwide survey of ‘the state of the Church’ ahead of Pope Francis visit in August.

Greater Balance

Said Elphin diocese: “We don’t really need more priests than we currently have in ministry, but we do need a greater balance in the age range of priests.”

The nationwide survey was published by The Irish Examiner earlier this week.

Population decline in the west of Ireland has contributed to a cutback in Masses  across the diocese, the survey revealed.

Elphin Diocese

37 parishes

62 priests

Said the diocese: “In the past three years, three priests in active ministry have died and six have retired (Nine in total).

“In the same period, seven priests have begun ministry in the diocese, mostly on temporary loan from overseas. 

“None of the new arrivals are newly ordained. There are eight deacons in active service.

“There has been a reduction in the number of Masses in some areas,.

This, added the survey response, corresponds “not only to the availability of priests, but also to the decline in population in the West.”

Sheena Darcy, Elphin diocesan office, said the large number of priests that we active, especially in the period from the 1950s to the 1980s, was a “bubble. “

“The numbers now are more like the numbers 100 years ago.

“In the past two years, we have established a formation programme for volunteer catechists.”

This, said Darcy, “will offer opportunities for their fellow parishioners to deepen their faith through various spiritual and educational programmes.

“We don’t really need more priests than we currently have in ministry, but we do need a greater balance in the age range of priests. 

Rooted Here

“It is wonderful to be able to welcome priests among us from countries which were evangelised by Irish missionaries.

“We do also need to provide priests of our own, whose own faith and experience of Church is rooted in the West of Ireland.

“A faith community which did not inspire people to mission would have to question its depth of faith. 

Every Year

“We are blessed currently to have two men preparing for the priesthood for our diocese.

“We would really want to send two men every year. 

We are also blessed with a new and vibrant community of six young religious sisters, two of them Irish, who have established themselves in the diocese in the past year.”